Hot on the heels of our blog post, dated 2 October 2018, relating to a corrupt finance manager at Kensington & Chelsea Council there is another scandal. This time it involves housing benefit assessors from several local authorities including Dagenham, Kingston, Lambeth and Barking. If this doesn’t make the case for using lie detector tests for council workers in pre-employment screening, nothing will. Not to mention, regular polygraph screening for existing employees.
7 defendants plus 2 that ran away
A group of 7 housing benefit assessors allegedly managed to fraudulently obtain £1 million over a 10 year period. This was a slick operation carried out by assessors working in 4 different councils. The story unravelled in Southwark Crown Court last week.
The fraud involved making claims in fake names and opening fraudulent bank account with of course, fake documents.
The defendants are:
- Menelik Cowan, aged 37
- Natasha Francis, aged 38
- Jessica Bartley, aged 35
- Alexander Williams, aged 39
- Hugh Small, aged 39
- Rahel Asfaha, aged 36
- Cassandra Johnson, aged 37
Two other alleged accomplices Elaine Agyemang and Bashiru Tahiru, are not before the court since the prosecution stated they had run away and were out of the jurisdiction of Southwark Crown Court.
All defendants deny the many charges against them. However, the prosecution evidence is strong. Money from benefits claims has found its way into the some of the defendants’ bank accounts. There is also compelling evidence of fraudulent housing benefit claims being processed on an industrial scale.
The defence doesn’t appear to be disputing that these claims were processed by those concerned or that they were fake claimants. Their case seems to rest on whether or not the assessors were aware that they were false.
Various correspondence and text messages between the group members form part of the evidence against them.
Regular polygraph screening for employees
In circumstances such as these, it would be of great benefit to the investigation if lie detector tests for council workers were part of a regular polygraph screening process. If they had been used in pre-employment screening the fraud might have been prevented altogether.
Polygraph results acquired in the early stages of an investigation usually lead to lines of enquiry that may not have occurred to detectives. They can dramatically save time, effort and valuable resources.
Virtually every week, scandalous news emerges where there has been corruption within local authorities. With so many homeless people and a housing crisis, councils can ill afford to lose money through the fraudulent activities of their employees. Naturally taxpayers are also concerned since ultimately it is their money that is being stolen. Anything that is likely to assist in the prevention of these criminal activities must be worth a trial, since it’s clear something isn’t working.
Invitation to local authorities
We invite local authorities to contact us with regard to implementing lie detector tests for council employees in the form of pre-employment screening as well as regular polygraph screening for existing employees. The polygraph is one of the most effective methods available for loss prevention in a variety of private and public services.
We will keep our readers updated on the progress of yet another sad and sorry state of affairs.