The Cabinet Office conducts a data matching exercise known as the National Fraud Initiative or ‘NFI’ to assist in the prevention and detection of fraud. This is one of the ways in which the Minister for the Cabinet Office takes responsibility within government for public sector efficiency and reform. The Minister for the Cabinet Office is also the Chair of the Fraud, Error and Debt Taskforce, the strategic decision-making body for all fraud and error, debt and grant efficiency initiatives across government.
Data matching involves comparing sets of data, such as the payroll or benefits records of a body, against other records held by the same or another body to see how far they match. The data is usually personal information. The data matching allows potentially fraudulent claims and payments to be identified. Where a match is found it may indicate that there is an inconsistency that requires further investigation. No assumption can be made as to whether there is fraud, error or other explanation until an investigation is carried out.
The processing of data by the Cabinet Office in a data matching exercise is carried out with statutory authority under its powers in Part 6 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. It does not require the consent of the individuals concerned under the Data Protection Act 1998.
All bodies participating in the Cabinet Office’s data matching exercises receive a report of matches that they should investigate, so as to detect instances of fraud, over- or underpayments and other errors, to take remedial action and update their records accordingly.