15. Fraud Response Strategies

In compliance with the CFCF, the department conducts investigations into suspected fraud against its programmes and services.

The department adopts AGIS as a best practice model for the investigation of all offences under Commonwealth legislation.

The department has implemented a number of response strategies which are outlined below.

15.1 Investigation Resources

To ensure that there is reasonable assurance that investigations are performed and reported properly, the department has appointed a FCO to ensure fraud control is conducted by experienced personnel who are sufficiently independent of the area or the matter under investigation.

All investigators hold mandatory qualifications as outlined in the CFCF. The AGIS provides minimum case handling standards for investigations. Copies of the AGIS are available from the AFP, who undertakes this function on behalf of the Heads of Commonwealth Operational Law Enforcement Agencies (HOCOLEA).

15.2 External Investigation Resources

Where the initial investigation discloses a complex situation beyond the department’s investigative capability, external expertise should be sought to carry out the investigation. The decision to obtain such external expertise will be at the discretion of the FCO in consultation with the General Counsel. The department has a panel of investigation providers that can be utilised as appropriate.

15.3 AFP Referrals

To assist in determining whether a particular matter, fraudulent or otherwise, is of sufficient seriousness that it should be referred to the AFP for investigation, the following arrangements will apply:

  • A preliminary assessment will be completed of the instance of suspected fraud by the FCO (or a fraud investigator at the direction of the FCO). The FCO may also seek external expert advice where required
  • The possibility of action being taken under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1987
  • Conflicts of interest and/or politically sensitive matters
  • Sufficient information and/or evidence should be available to form the basis of a reasonable cause to suspect an offence may have been committed or attempted
  • The matter should be of a fraudulent nature within the terms of the definition of fraud
  • The suspected fraud or attempted fraud is considered serious and/or complex. The CFCF specify that the existence of any of the following factors is an indication that a matter is serious or complex:
    • Significant or potentially significant monetary or property loss to the Commonwealth
    • Damage to the security, standing or integrity of the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth agency
    • Harm to the economy, resources, assets, environment or well-being of Australia
    • A serious breach of trust by a Commonwealth employee or contractor of a Commonwealth agency
    • The use of sophisticated techniques or technology to avoid detection, that require specialised skills and technology for the matter to be successfully investigated
    • The elements of a criminal conspiracy
    • Bribery, corruption or attempted bribery or corruption of a Commonwealth employee or contractor to a Commonwealth agency
    • Known or suspected criminal activity against more than one Commonwealth agency
    • Activities which could affect wider aspects of Commonwealth law enforcement (e.g. illegal immigration, money laundering).

The FCO is responsible for authorising referrals and subsequent liaison with the AFP and/or any of the State and Territory Police services, in relation to the department’s fraud investigations. The liaison requirement is on a case-by-case basis but some of the reasons for liaison are as follows:

  • Initial discussions as to the prospect of a referral of an investigation
  • Request for investigation assistance, such as a search warrant
  • Advice as to current law or procedures
  • Final referral of an investigation, and
  • Resource assistance to the AFP in their investigations.

15.4 Disciplinary Procedures

Where it is appropriate that the matter not be reported to the police, the department reserves its right to pursue a range of other remedies including dismissal, demotion or reprimand in accordance with the Public Service Act 1998 and the APS Code of Conduct.

15.5 Policy for Civil Proceedings to Recover the Proceeds of Fraud

The department has adopted a policy wherein it will actively pursue the recovery of any money or property lost through fraud, provided there is a strong prospect of a net benefit to the department from such action.

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