1 Introduction

1.1 The University does not tolerate fraud or corruption. It requires staff at all times to act honestly and with integrity and to safeguard the resources for which they are responsible.

1.2 This policy is established to facilitate the development and maintenance of a culture and controls which will aid the prevention and detection of fraud or corruption.

1.3 Fraud is a serious matter and the University is committed to investigating all cases of suspected fraud. This policy sets out the University’s procedures in cases where fraud and corrupt practices are discovered.

2 Definition

2.1 For the purposes of this policy, fraud is defined as dishonest, irregular or illegal acts, characterised by a deliberate intent at concealment or false representation, resulting in the diversion of resources, whether or not for personal gain, for the benefit of an individual or group of individuals at a consequent loss to the University. Resources may include money, physical assets, equipment, or intellectual property.

2.2 Corruption or corrupt practice is defined as deliberate dishonesty relating to, or distortion of, University processes or procedures, including the acceptance of gifts or bribes, in order to obtain advantage for an individual or group of individuals.

2.3 For convenience, the term “fraud” is used throughout this policy and procedures to refer to the definitions in both 2.1 and 2.2 above.

3 Scope

3.1 This policy applies to any fraud, or suspected fraud, involving employees, governors, vendors, contractors, outside agencies doing business with the University and/or any other parties with a business relationship with the University.

3.2 Any investigative action required will be conducted without regard to the suspected wrongdoer’s length of service, position, title, or relationship to the University. If necessary, an independent Assessor will conduct the investigation (see 6.4 below).

3.3 This policy does not cover academic fraud (e.g. plagiarism or cheating) committed by staff or students. Information about the policy and procedures associated with this can be found in the University academic regulations.

4 Associated policies and procedures

4.1 The University has a number of established policies which provide guidance to the controls in place to prevent specific types of fraud. This policy should therefore be read in conjunction with the following associated policies and procedures:

  • Absence Policy
  • Acceptable Use (Information Systems) Policy
  • Appointments Policy and Procedures
  • Catering and Hospitality Policy
  • Conflicts of Interest Policy
  • Financial Regulations
  • Intellectual Property Policy
  • Purchasing Policy and Strategy
  • Guidelines for Staff with Purchasing Responsibility
  • Security Policy
  • Travel Expenses Policy

4.2 The following policies set out routes by which members of staff may report suspected fraud or corrupt practice (see 6.2 below):

  • Grievance Procedure
  • Whistleblowing Procedure

4.3 Should there be prima facie evidence of fraud or corrupt practice by staff, the following policy will be used and the police may be involved (see 6.5 below).

  • Disciplinary Procedure

4.4 All these policies and procedures may be accessed on the University’s website.

5 Culture and controls

5.1 Governors and senior managers are required to ensure that their behaviour is demonstrably selfless and open and that they champion the University’s policies on fraud, in particular, conflicts of interest, hospitality, travel, and gifts. These are set out in the Financial Regulations and associated policies.

5.2 The University’s external auditors obtain an annual statement signed by all governors and senior managers to the effect that they are personally unaware of any fraud, conflict of interest, or other breach of legislation. The Chairman also signs a Letter of Representation on behalf of the governing body which includes such assurances.

5.3 Fraud is minimised through management procedures which deny opportunities for fraud. Staff receive training in, and must comply with, the University’s policies on segregation of duties, data security and conflict of interest, and the University’s Financial Regulations.

5.4 Regular review of internal systems is carried out by the University's internal audit service and all findings and recommendations reported to the Audit Committee.

5.5 Individuals applying for appointment are subject to the checks set out in the Appointments Policy and Procedure. This includes a requirement that:

  • satisfactory references are obtained covering a reasonable period of continuous working (with an explanation for any gaps), to cover character as well as educational and employment achievements; these references to include one from the present or immediately previous employer;
  • essential qualifications are checked prior to the offer of appointment.

This requirement also applies to staff recruited through agencies and to independent contractors.

5.6 In appropriate cases (eg. designated posts with significant financial responsibility, working with children and young people or vulnerable adults) Criminal Records Bureau checks will be made.

5.7 Suspect patterns of behaviour among staff dealing with financial or contractual transactions will be investigated. These would include, for example, living beyond apparent means, taking few holidays, regularly working alone out of normal hours, and resistance to delegation. Any indication of addiction to drugs, alcohol, or gambling will be addressed promptly for the welfare of the individual and to minimise risks to the University. Observations of this type should be reported to the line manager of the staff member involved or to the senior staff members listed in 6.2 below, or, if necessary, through the Whistleblowing Procedure.

6 Fraud response and investigation

6.1 Fraud may be reported by any member of staff, student, or other person or organisation having dealings with the University. The report may reach the University through any number of routes, including the Whistleblowing Procedure.

6.2 The exact route to be followed in the conduct of the response will depend on the source of the information, the nature and seriousness of the fraud and the position in the University of the person or persons involved. Any member of University staff having reason to suspect a fraud is advised to contact in the first instance the University Secretary, the Director of Finance, or the Director of Human Resources.

6.3 If, for whatever reason, this appears inappropriate, then the Whistleblowing Procedure should be used. This procedure is available on the University’s website. It enables concerns to be reported directly to an independent Assessor external to the University on a confidential basis and without fear of detriment or retribution to the person making the report.

6.4 Depending on the reporting route and the nature of the fraud, the University Secretary, the Director of Finance, the Director of Human Resources, or the designated independent Assessor under the Whistleblowing Procedure, will take charge of the investigation. This individual will assemble other members of staff, including the University’s internal auditors and legal advisers, to assist with the investigation as s/he sees fit.

6.5 The objectives of the investigation will be:

  • To prevent further loss
  • To notify the University’s insurers and internal auditors
  • To notify appropriate University officers, including the Chair of the Audit Committee, and HEFCE, if appropriate, and to keep them informed of progress on the investigation
  • To establish and secure evidence necessary for criminal and disciplinary action
  • To inform, or to involve in the investigation, the police
  • To endeavour to recover losses
  • To take action against those responsible
  • To conduct a post incident review and to make recommendations to prevent a recurrence.

Where there is prima facie evidence of criminal activity, the matter will be handed over to the police for investigation in the first instance and the University will act under their directions.

6.6 Where initial investigation provides reasonable grounds for suspecting a member or members of staff of fraud, the investigatory team will invoke the University’s staff disciplinary procedure. This may include the suspension of the person or persons involved. Where it appears advisable that the suspension take place unannounced, so as to prevent suspects from destroying or removing evidence, the staff concerned should be supervised at all times before leaving the University’s premises, and measures taken to ensure that they are unable to gain access to the premises or to IT systems during their suspension.

6.7 The leader of the investigatory team will provide regular reports to the Chair of the Audit Committee on progress. The Vice Chancellor will also be kept informed, unless s/he is a subject of the investigation.

6.8 The leader of investigatory team will notify HEFCE in accordance with the requirements of the HEFCE Audit Code of Practice.

6.9 On completion of the investigation, a written report, prepared by the leader of the investigatory team in conjunction with the internal auditors, will be provided to the Audit Committee, and will include:

  • A description of the incident, the value of the loss, the people involved, and the means by which the fraud was perpetrated
  • Measures taken to prevent a recurrence
  • Action needed to strengthen future responses to fraud.

6.10 An annual report on fraud will be made to the Audit Committee in association with the material relating to the Letter of Representation (see 5.2).

7 Review

7.1 This policy and procedures will be reviewed following every investigation, or otherwise at intervals of three years.

Carole Mainstone

University Secretary