The annual Fraud Against the Commonwealth census – what’s new and what’s changing?
Each year, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) conducts the Fraud Against the Commonwealth census. The purpose of the census is to gather information about Commonwealth entity fraud control arrangements, fraud investigations and alternative actions, fraud losses and recoveries. Non-corporate Commonwealth entities must complete the census in accordance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Policy. While not mandatory for corporate Commonwealth entities or Commonwealth companies, completing the census is considered best practice. This year’s census has been sent out, and entities complete it before 27 October 2023.
Entities need to have appropriate recording and reporting mechanisms in place to capture the information required to accurately complete the census. Reporting systems that record allegations and detections of suspected fraud, subsequent investigation action and outcomes can provide an overview of the nature, extent and location of fraud. Accurate reporting increases transparency and integrity for Commonwealth entities. The data from the census is important to develop an evidence base on the full scale of fraud across the Commonwealth. Without a solid evidence base to drive the fraud narrative there is no clear picture of the extent of the fraud problem.
Entities will be asked in this year’s census about ‘alternative actions’ as well as investigations. Alternative actions are any further action/s taken where an allegation of fraud meets the definition of fraud but does not meet an entity’s threshold to warrant an investigation.
Entities will also be asked if they are willing to share their identified responses for inclusion in the Australian Government Fraud Landscape Report. The Fraud Landscape Report is a Centre publication which will contain information on emerging trends, a whole-of government fraud narrative and key statistics relating to detected and prosecuted fraud. It aims to:
- identify and communicate persistent and emerging trends in fraud
- increase transparency of the fraud problem in the Australian Government, using data gathered through the Census
- complete the picture of fraud against the Australian Government.
In next year’s census, which will require entities to report on the 2023/24 financial year, a new series of corruption questions will be included. These questions will be optional next year, but will become mandatory in the 2024/25 census in line with upcoming changes to the Fraud Rule (soon to be the Fraud and Corruption Rule) to incorporate corruption. The questions in next year’s census will help entities ensure internal reporting processes are in place to capture the required corruption information.