Everywhere in America, state and local government officials are on the front lines in the ongoing battle against fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA), and this situation was only made more difficult by the pandemic. To assess this, Thomson Reuters conducted a comprehensive survey of government employees directly responsible for protecting government programs from exploitation and abuse, releasing the findings in the 2022 Fraud, Waste, & Abuse Report. Because the survey questions those directly involved in the prevention, detection, and investigation of FWA, this report can offer keen insights on the effectiveness of agencies’ investigative efforts, including whether they have the tools, resources, and training needed to do their jobs.
Here are five such insights that state and local government program leaders and employees can learn from in order to improve their own program integrity efforts:
1. Government agents still want to spend more time preventing program fraud, waste, and abuse
These annual reports have consistently shown that government workers spend on average about one-quarter of their time on front-end tactics to prevent incidents of FWA. However, when asked how much of their time they wanted to be spending on front-end prevention, respondents expressed a desire to spend more than one-third of their time on this. On the local level, respondents say they would prefer to spend more than one-half of their time on front-end prevention.
Conversely, respondents say they would prefer to spend less time on fraud detection and investigation, indicating that these front-line employees see their prevention efforts as a more efficient and effective way to safeguard the public trust against incidents of FWA.
2. More government agencies are confident that they have the tools to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse
This year, there were sizable leaps in the percentages of government workers saying they felt confident they have the tools and resources necessary to prevent fraudulent activity and address investigative issues, compared to 2020. And while this may reflect an influx of investment in technology and tools during the pandemic, such signs of optimism are refreshing.
Going forward, almost half of respondents say their agencies are allocating at least a portion of their budget toward tools and resources that can help workers prevent fraud — again, a positive development that other agencies should emulate.
3. State and local government workers expect FWA to increase over the next two years
Not surprisingly, many respondents say their efforts to prevent, detect, and investigate FWA were made much more challenging by the pandemic. And many cite the overall increase in the volume and complexity of fraudulent activity during this time as the main reason.
Now, more than half of respondents say they expect the prevalence of FWA to increase over the next two years, with many noting how certain pandemic-related fraud schemes became more sophisticated, exposing critical weaknesses within program integrity systems that were previously unknown.
Given that, it would seem obvious that government agencies should undertake renewed efforts to ensure their workers have the necessary tools, technology, and training to keep them from being overwhelmed by this surge in illicit activity.
4. Many government agencies still don’t use case management software in their operations
The use of case management solutions to make workflow more efficient has largely failed to penetrate many state and local government agencies, potentially hampering their efforts to better manage and deter incidents of fraud. While the percentage of agencies using case management software has grown since 2019, there is still a large majority of agencies — almost three-fourths in the latest survey — not using any case management solutions. In fact, no single case management solution was used by more than 10% of agencies.
If agencies are indeed expecting higher levels of fraud in coming years, investing in case management software seems like a logical first step to improving their effectiveness at identifying and tracking cases through the process.
5. Other third-party risk and fraud solutions are nearly tied with Google as the most-used resource for public records searches
While Google continues to be the first stop for many government investigators, other resources are also gaining in use and popularity among those investigators who regularly conduct public record searches. Almost two-thirds of survey respondents say they also use government websites in their records research, and more than one-half say they use some form of third-party investigative software or a database service. Indeed, on a state level, more respondents say they’re now using Thomson Reuters CLEAR than are using Google for their research work.
The expanded use of research resources beyond Google is a very positive development that should allow agencies to increase their efficiency and effectiveness, especially around the detection and investigation aspects of their role.
As the Thomson Reuters’ 2022 Fraud, Waste, & Abuse Report clearly showed, the pandemic and its impacts have brought a lot of change for state and local government workers and their program integrity teams over the past few years. Yet, it is critical that these agency leaders and team managers learn from these insights in order to better prepare their workers for the task ahead.
To learn more, download a full copy of Thomson Reuters’ 2022 Fraud, Waste, & Abuse Report.