Tackling fraud in UK central government
: a review of the legal powers, skills and regulatory environment

  • Michael Colin Gilbert

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Fraud, which has been defined as, “any crime which uses deception as its main modus operandi” (Wells, 2011, p.2), has a significant effect on society. Its effect may be second only to drug trafficking in the economic harm that it causes to the United Kingdom (UK). It is estimated to cost the UK economy more than £50 billion annually, of which £20 billion is attributable to the public sector (Attorney General's Office, 2006, p.9; National Fraud Authority, 2013, p.2). The UK government has announced its intention to decrease the losses due to fraud. The UK government’s declared ‘zero tolerance’ strategy for the UK public sector encompasses the following: a collaborative approach supported by improved information flows; fraud awareness and prevention; and the need for more effective enforcement activity where fraud is suspected. Diminishing police resources allocated to fraud mean that this approach will need to be delivered by both law enforcement and civilian counter fraud teams (Attorney General's Office, 2006, pp.128-129; Cabinet Office & National Fraud Authority, 2011a, 2011b). This research project sought to establish whether UK central government organisations have the legal powers, skills and regulation needed to tackle fraud effectively. It was concluded from the literature review that an effective legal framework, supported by a wide range of skills, is essential to the delivery of the UK government’s zero tolerance approach, and that both professional standards, and the civil rights of those subject to investigation, should be protected through some form of regulation. Empirical data, collected via a questionnaire and a semi-structured interview programme, suggested that the effectiveness of central government civilian counter fraud teams is hampered by a fragmented legal landscape and a lack of skills, and that further professionalisation and regulation is needed to protect professional standards and individual legal rights.
Date of AwardAug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorAlison Wakefield (Supervisor) & Geoff Smith (Supervisor)

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