In a crisis, the risk of fraud increases. The risk is due to a range of factors, including the pace at which money must be given to those in need, increased levels of desperation, and the establishment of new methods for disbursing funds.
To address the elevated risk of fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) established the Counter Fraud Centre - Tauārai Hara Tāware (CFC). Since then, the CFC has built on this work and has now taken up a permanent role to lead the Government’s fraud prevention activities and assist agencies to build strong counter-fraud systems.
Fraud on public funds prevents money from going to those in need. Therefore, a strong response to this type of fraud has a wider social impact, as well as improving the effectiveness and value for money of government spending. The CFC’s mission is to build capability across the public sector by providing resources and guidance and uplifting New Zealand’s counter fraud culture.
The SFO is also leading the development of a National Counter Fraud and Corruption Strategy (NCFCS). The NCFCS will allow the counter-fraud and anti-corruption systems in Aotearoa New Zealand to work strategically with priorities determined by the entire system.
This project includes the Ministry of Justice and New Zealand Police and will look to involve Transparency International New Zealand throughout the process. The first stage of the strategy will seek to co-ordinate the public sector’s response, with the private sector, NGOs and civil society being involved in Phase 2.
The SFO is New Zealand’s lead agency for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex fraud, including corruption.
The SFO recently released its Strategic Areas of Focus to illustrate where it can have the greatest impact and where it will be focusing its resources. The focus areas will be dynamic and responsive to issues that may impact New Zealand’s economic and financial well-being in the current environment.
The SFO aims to have at least 40% of its cases fall within these focus areas, which will be reviewed every 12-18 months. Cases that the SFO takes on will still need to fall within its mandated area of being serious or complex and will be assessed against its statutory criteria.
The SFO continues to accept and encourage referrals about allegations involving suspected serious or complex fraud, regardless of whether they are within these focus areas.