Crooked civil servants have cost government departments more than £12m over the past three years through a series of frauds, including bogus benefit claims and expenses fiddles.
Managers caught more than 1,000 staff responsible for £4.2m worth of thefts and fiddles in the past year alone, an analysis by Treasury bosses has shown. The figure comes on top of £4.2m last year and £3.85m in 2006-07.
The toll of 1,320 cases in 2008-09 was almost double the total uncovered in the previous 12 months – and at least one of the cheats was caught selling their stolen goods on the internet site eBay. However, not all the perpetrators were reported to the police or confronted with internal disciplinary action.
The disturbing findings open up a new front in the campaign against the misuse of taxpayers' money, following the long furore over MPs' expenses.
The Treasury's study of 45 central-government bodies, including all main departments, found that 25 had discovered fraud in 2008-09. It noted a "significant increase" in the number of cases, particularly those exploiting assets and information, travel and subsistence fiddles and theft.
The most expensive payment fraud was carried out by a member of staff who banked more than £350,000 by creating false records and authorising fraudulent repayment claims. The employee was dismissed and faces legal proceedings.
Another fraudster cheated their department of £246,400 by creating invoices for a non-existent supplier, quoting a virtual office address and fictional Companies House and VAT registrations.