Local Elections: Corruption cause for concern

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The Independent Online
NEARLY two thirds of voters are concerned about corruption in local government, according to a report published today, writes Marianne Darch.

The report, which calls for councillors and senior officers to respond to the lack of public confidence in the financial practices of local government, says 63 per cent are concerned and 28 per cent very concerned about malpractice.

Guy Dehn, director of Public Concern at Work, the charity that issued the report, said: 'Few councils have a clear strategy for tackling financial malpractice and fewer still are given any lead by their elected members. For too long the issue has been left to the auditor.'

One fifth of people said they had had direct experience of fraud and corruption in councils. Almost a quarter had worked for local government or a contractor.

The survey, Blowing the Whistle on Fraud and Corruption, suggested that fear of adverse press coverage deterred councils from making public their action against fraud.

It suggests that frequent local government changes in the past decade have increased opportunities for fraud and corruption. Opportunists were taking advantage of an entrepreneurial culture in which the pace of reforms had outstripped the development of safeguards against abuses.

The report follows an Audit Commission study of local government published last December, which found the largest number of frauds were committed by the public against councils, with a loss from reported frauds of pounds 25m in 1992-93. Most cases were for benefit fraud.