Working together to safeguard Australia’s COVID-19 response
The Commonwealth COVID-19 Counter Fraud Taskforce
In recognition of the need for a swift and coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Centre in the Attorney-General's Department (the Centre) and the Australian Federal Police’s Operation Ashiba combined forces between March and June to establish the Commonwealth COVID-19 Counter Fraud Taskforce (the Taskforce).
The Taskforce was created to advise and support Commonwealth agencies in their efforts to mitigate serious and complex fraud against the COVID-19 economic stimulus measures.
The Taskforce’s central focus was to support agencies in their work to:
- support policy, program and system design to counter fraud activity
- identify risks and controls
- build information sharing and intelligence arrangements across government, and
- promote deterrence through consistent strategic messaging.
The Taskforce had several key achievements during its operation including:
- comprehensively mapping and assessing risks across dozens of COVID-19 stimulus and support measures
- developing and distributing a range of guidance products and toolkits to help Commonwealth agencies prevent, detect and respond to fraud during the pandemic
- creating a new Operational Intelligence Group to share information and intelligence on COVID-19 fraud
- providing input and briefing to multiple forums and committees to facilitate visibility of the fraud risks and opportunities in the COVID-19 context at senior levels of government
- engaging with international counterparts on opportunities, lessons learned and intelligence.
As Australia moves towards economic recovery, some government agencies have begun to review their implementation of emergency measures and focus on post-payment compliance.
Consistent with this focus, the Taskforce was brought to a close on 30 June 2020. However, many of its activities and priorities remain an important focus for the Centre and AFP’s Operation Ashiba.
The COVID-19 experience provided us with valuable lessons on how we can respond to future challenges and incorporate learnings into our everyday work. It is important we use this crisis to innovate and improve program integrity and counter fraud capability for the future. For example:
- The Centre and Operation Ashiba will be regularly meetings with a new Counter Fraud Reference Group to identify shared experiences and opportunities to strengthen fraud prevention activities.
- Operation Ashiba will be maintaining the Operational Intelligence Group to share information and intelligence going forward.
- The Centre, Operation Ashiba and its Commonwealth partners will be improving cross‑agency capability in key areas, such as:
- fraud risk assessment
- supporting identity verification solutions
- improved integrity guidance, processes and tools for policy designers
- pressure testing to strengthen fraud controls, and
- active, coordinated and early disruption of fraud.
Authors: Christopher McDermott and Emma Swinbourne (Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Centre)