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Better protect relief and recovery support measures


Australian Government entities have demonstrated extraordinary commitment and agility to help Australians through many different emergencies and disasters. This often involves rapidly designing and implementing relief and recovery measures to help individuals, businesses and communities get back on their feet.

Sadly, government responses to disasters also come with an inherently high risk of fraud. Relief programs are an attractive target for fraudsters seeking dishonest financial gain.

Our Disaster Relief and Recovery Counter Fraud Toolkit provides practical advice on how to identify common fraud threats and countermeasures to safeguard disaster support measures against fraud.

Consider fraud when designing relief and recovery measures

It is not a failure for fraud to occur – it is likely inevitable and hard to prevent due to the time-critical nature of emergency responses. However, it is a failure if fraud is allowed to become systemic and undermine the government's efforts to provide support. This causes further suffering to victims, erodes the good will of the community, undermines confidence in the government's response, and diverts money and support away from those that need it most.

Principles to follow when designing and rapidly releasing relief and recovery measures

Australian Government entities responsible for designing and administering disaster relief and recovery programs should:

  • accept that there is an inherent risk of fraud and it is likely to happen
  • integrate fraud control officials into the policy and process design to build the awareness of fraud risks
  • work together with fraud control officials to implement low-friction countermeasures
  • carry out targeted post-event assurance to check for instances of fraud
  • be mindful of the shift into longer term service (from emergency payments) and revisit the control framework at this point, especially where large sums are invested.

Australian Government entities should also, where possible, use established delivery processes and relationships, rather than setting up new ones. Creating new processes and systems can lead to untested, inconsistent practices and decision-making.

Important steps to undertake when designing and rapidly releasing relief and recovery measures

Identify and assess fraud risks

Understand what the risks are. When officials have a clear and specific understanding of the fraud risks, they can make better decisions about their risk tolerance or make necessary adjustments to processes, policy and program design.

Learn about conducting a fraud risk assessment.

Think like a fraudster

When people commit fraud, they take on one or more 'personas'. By exploring these personas and how they may target economic recovery measures, officials can better understand how measures might be vulnerable to fraud, and better counter or reduce the scale and impact of fraud.

Learn about the different types of fraudsters.

Test your countermeasures and assumptions

Pressure testing is a proactive and proven way of eliminating your blind spots. It helps officials find vulnerabilities and challenge assumptions about how fraud is managed within government programs. And when officials know where their programs are vulnerable, they are better informed to prevent fraud or uncover where they are being exploited.

Learn about pressure testing countermeasures to see if they are effective.

Introduce low-friction countermeasures

Prevent fraud without causing significant delay to claiming processes or payment rollout. Back this up with post-event assurance activity to understand the extent of the risk and identify funds that have been paid in incorrectly. Explore some low-friction countermeasures you can implement:

Learn about different countermeasures.

Introduce low-friction countermeasures

Legislation and policy can help prevent, detect and respond to fraud, such as by outlining clear rules, regulations and criteria, allowing entities to collect, use and disclose information and allowing entities to enforce penalties and recover fraud losses.

Apply limits on requests, claims or processes, such as maximum claim amounts or time periods. Enforce these limits using IT system controls.

Limit and monitor privileged system accesses (those that allow staff, contractors and providers to perform special functions or override system and application controls). The Protective Security Policy Framework outlines the government protective security requirements to safeguard information from cyber threats, including to restrict administrative privileges.

Establish governance, accountability and oversight of processes by using delegations and requiring committees and project boards to oversee critical decisions and risk. Good governance, accountability and oversight increases transparency and reduces the opportunity for fraud.

Collaborate with strategic partners such as other government entities, committees, working groups and taskforces. This allows you to share capability, information and intelligence and to prevent and disrupt fraud.

Coordinate disruption activities across multiple programs or entities to strengthen processes and identify serious and organised criminals targeting multiple programs. It can also include referrals to law enforcement agencies for those groups that reach the threshold for complex criminal investigations.

Other resources

This toolkit has been developed to help Australian Government entities design and deliver disaster relief and recovery support measures. It features a range of low-friction countermeasures and solutions that might be deployed when delivering these support measures to reduce the risk of fraud.

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