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Fight against fraud saves Benefits Agency £500m

The UK government’s Benefits Agency has saved more than £500 million over the last seven years by reducing fraudulent benefit claims. BT Syntegra’s fraud detection service has played a key part in this achievement. The Benefits Agency has recently extended our managed service contract for the third time.

BT Syntegra developed and manages a fraud detection service – the Generalised Matching Service (GMS) – for the Benefits Agency within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The GMS is a key part of the DWP’s high-profile strategy to reduce benefit fraud.

Fraud detection used to be a manual operation owing to the disparate nature of the computer systems used for the individual benefits. The GMS electronically pinpoints, investigates and prevents erroneous or fraudulent benefit claims. It brings information from around 20 systems together into a data warehouse, enabling claims to be matched across different benefit types. For example, if someone is claiming benefit in two different areas, or claiming both as a pensioner and as a single mother, the service will highlight this and present the case for further investigation.

As well as running regular checks designed to spot fraud (known as rules), the system enables fraud investigators to conduct online searches. This facility is regularly used in special operations to check whether working people are claiming benefits that they are not entitled to.

Managing referrals

BT Syntegra has also designed, developed and delivered a Referral Management System (RMS).

The GMS transfers details of suspect housing benefit claims to the RMS as well as issuing the details to each local authority electronically, or in paper format, for further investigation. The RMS tracks suspect claims until the final outcome of the claim is recorded as savings, underpayment or overpayment. Prosecution of fraudsters may follow.

During the last year alone the GMS generated over 167,000 referrals to Counter Fraud Investigation Services. This enabled the DWP to identify over £65 million pounds-worth of overpayments to claimants and make adjustments to weekly benefit entitlements of £3 million.

The GMS also enabled the DWP to make over 1.1 million case interventions which recovered another £10.5 million of overpayments, and led to weekly benefit adjustments of another £3.5 million. To date the GMS project has enabled the DWP to identify £162,781,934 worth of overpayments.

Matching data from many sources

The Benefits Agency is the primary source of data for the GMS, along with housing benefit information obtained from 406 local authorities around the country. The system matches the housing benefit information against a number of different DWP benefits, including income support, child benefit, disability living allowance, family credit, pensions, national insurance, industrial injuries, invalid care allowance, prison service and job seekers’ allowance. On average, 18 million housing benefit records are address-cleansed each year, before being loaded into the main database.

Following agreement from the data protection registrar of a code of practice for data matching, the service now takes on data sources from the Departmental Central Index, Post Office Redirect, Inland Revenue and Immigration Authority. An estimated 2.5 billion records are loaded annually into the main database, the largest data source being the Departmental Central Index which contains over 80 million records.

The GMS is a major source of integrated information within the DWP generally. It is used increasingly to support one-off exercises including the identification of entitlement for free BBC licences, minimum income guarantee payments, and the government’s annual winter fuels payment.

Latest developments

The GMS system has just undergone a successful technology refresh . This has involved the system being upgraded to a Sun Microsystems Solaris Cluster running an Oracle 9i clustered database. The main GMS database has about 400 million rows of data representing 300 gigabytes of storage. Another 280 gigabytes is used for additional databases (including the RMS), the holding area for data loads and customer output files.

Syntegra continues to work closely with the customer to introduce new ways of tackling fraud, including matching pan-government information. Work is now underway to select analytical software for fraud profiling. Innovations such as this help the government to tighten up on fraud and make more efficient use of taxpayers’ money.

“This latest contract extension is a vote of the customer’s confidence in us,” said Syntegra account manager Jo Woodward. “It gives us the opportunity to support the DWP in many more one-off initiatives such as the winter fuels payment.”

Satisfied customers

BT Syntegra’s track record with the DWP is substantial. Gordon Patterson, who has been managing the project since 1996, says: “We have demonstrated our ability to deliver high-quality, cost-effective systems to tight timescales. This has helped us build an excellent reputation for delivery throughout the DWP, and acted as a launch pad for subsequent bids such as ACCORD. The original contract was awarded for three years only, and we are still running the system some eight years later.”

The BT Syntegra team has consistently exceeded service level targets as well as providing very valuable customer knowledge to the ACCORD programme to facilitate the early delivery of business benefits.

When the DWP named EDS as lead service supplier on the ACCORD programme, BT Syntegra became accountable to EDS for the GMS project. Jules Turner, EDS’ project manager responsible for GMS, says: “I continue to be impressed by the reliability of the service provided by BT Syntegra and the prompt manner in which incidents are dealt with. It is also nice having such an open and friendly relationship with the BT Syntegra GMS team, making it easier for us both to provide the right level of service to the DWP. I look forward to our continued partnership.”

Commenting on BT Syntegra’s service, Sue Godfrey, a senior manager in the DWP fraud team, says: “GMS continues to deliver significant benefits to DWP in our fight against fraud. It is also proving extremely useful in assisting us in detecting overpayments and miscalculations of benefit.

The reliability and success of the system, the expertise of the BT Syntegra team and their can-do attitude have been major factors in the decision to further extend the contract.”

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