The Service wants to achieve a culture which includes openness and honesty in all its dealings with wholehearted opposition to fraud, corruption or bribery in any form.
The Service’s anti-fraud, corruption and bribery policy, strategies and procedures apply to all Service employees, all individuals and organisations (prospective employees, suppliers and contractors) that may have dealings with the Service.
The commitment to dealing with fraud, corruption and bribery is demonstrated by having in place systems and procedures designed to:
The Service is totally committed to creating and maintaining an environment where fraud, corruption and bribery will not be tolerated, and all instances will be investigated, and the perpetrator(s) will be dealt with in accordance with established policies. Action will be taken to recover all monies or assets stolen from the Authority.
Where appropriate, arrangements will be made to ensure that the case receives maximum publicity to deter potential fraudsters
It is the Service’s intention to pursue all individuals or organisations that are suspected of having defrauded or committed corrupt acts and report them to the Police if appropriate.
Any fraud, corruption or bribery issue concerning the business of the Authority and one of its Members will be reported to the Appointments, Standards and Appeals Committee.
Employees will lead by example and ensure that they comply with all policies, rules, regulations, and instructions.
The Service acknowledges that the recruitment and retention of high calibre employees is vital if it is to deliver quality services. The Service will take steps at the recruitment stage to establish, as far as possible, the honesty and integrity of potential employees.
Recruitment will be in accordance with procedures laid down in Service Policy, the Recruitment and Selection procedure as per Managing Vacancies.
Employees will be bound by any Authority or Service Policies, codes of conduct, codes issued by professional bodies of which they are members and the national schemes of conditions of service and any other contractual terms and conditions of service agreed locally.
The Service’s disciplinary procedure is laid down in Disciplinary Procedure. This policy is to be followed whenever employees are suspected of committing acts of a fraudulent, corrupt or bribery nature.
Employees are required to provide their line manager with up to date information concerning their direct or indirect pecuniary interests which will be entered on a register, held by Service Support Administration, kept for that purpose in accordance with Code of Conduct
Employees are required to declare membership of any organisation not open to the public without formal membership and/or requiring commitment of allegiance and/or which has secrecy about rules and/or membership and/or conduct. A register will be kept for such a purpose and will be maintained in accordance with Registration of Declaration of Membership or Conflict of Interest
The Service’s Outside Employment and Secondary Contract Policy is laid down in Outside Employment and Secondary Contracts Policy . All outside employment and secondary contracts must be declared by the employee via the Oracle system for authorisation by their line manager.
Any employee of WMFS with a pecuniary or other interest in any contract let by the Authority must, whether or not they have been directly involved in the award of such a contract, submit a report to the Team Leader, Service Support Administration detailing the nature of their interest.
Service Support Administration will maintain a register of pecuniary interests for inspection by auditors and will verify annually that any declared interests are still current.
Employees should not let personal or private interests affect their judgement of the public interest. Members of the Authority and employees should treat these non-pecuniary interests on the same basis as the law requires them to treat pecuniary interests. Members’ interests shall be registered by the Clerk to the Authority.
The Authority and the Service have in place Policies, Core Values, Financial Regulations, accounting instructions, cash handling instructions and an assets security policy that give clear instructions or guidance as to carrying out functions and responsibilities.
There is a commitment to having systems which incorporate efficient and effective internal controls which include, as far as is practicable, adequate separation of duties.
The Treasurer has a statutory duty under Section 151 of The Local Government Act 1972 to ensure that there are proper arrangements in place to administer the Authority’s financial affairs. As part of this duty he or she will exercise a quality control on the Authority’s main financial systems and sub systems. Management is responsible for ensuring that controls in systems are properly maintained.
The internal audit planning process provided by Sandwell MBC as the Lead Authority incorporates a risk assessment approach to planning audits, in conjunction with the Chief Fire Officer, which will assist in determining the frequency of audits and the areas to focus attention on. The risk assessment process is subject to a periodic review.
The Authority’s auditors will examine the Authority’s arrangements for the prevention, detection and investigation of fraud, corruption and bribery, and will report accordingly.
In order to protect the service and its employees from claims of bribery corruption or fraudulent behaviour or activities, this policy gives guidelines and procedures on those activities or behaviours which may conflict with these principles. If an employee fails to follow the procedures and guidelines detailed in this policy, it may lead to disciplinary action being taken or a criminal offence being committed. The Service’s stance is there will be no acceptance of any offers of donations, sponsorship (excluding corporate sponsorship), gifts or hospitality by any employee.
See Offers or Acceptance of Gifts and Hospitality, Acceptance of Donations, Sponsorship and Recording of Donations, Gifts and Hospitality for guidance
Details on corporate sponsorship can be found in Accessible Information, Services and Facilities
The general principle should be that gifts and hospitality must only be provided in exceptional circumstances. Hospitality should be provided as appropriate to the circumstances, for example in the course of a business meeting with external organisations and partnerships where a working lunch/dinner may be provided. However, the provision of alcohol is not appropriate in any circumstances. No gifts or hospitality should be accepted by any employee who is involved in an ongoing tendering process.
See Giving of Gifts and Hospitality
The WMFS cannot prevent any individual from belonging to or joining any organisation. However, a balance must be struck between the private enjoyments of membership with the responsibility of being an employee of the WMFS.
If an employee is found to belong to an illegal organisation, such as those proscribed under the Terrorism Act, then the matter will be passed over to the police.
See Registration of Declaration of Membership or conflict of interest for guidance
The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 imposes restrictions upon public political activities by certain employees of Local and Joint Authorities.
Political neutrality is important in maintaining public trust in public organisations. It protects employees from inappropriate political pressure but is not designed to limit employees’ rights to participate in democracy in civil society. See Employee Conduct in the Political Environment Also see Registration of Declaration of Membership or Conflict of Interest
Members and employees are encouraged to raise any matters that concern them relating to the Service’s methods of operation. However, raising matters of concern should not be confused with raising a grievance. A concern is not a grievance.
Concerns can be raised in the certainty that they will be treated seriously and properly investigated in a confidential manner. Where employees feel unable to raise concerns with their immediate line manager they can discuss matters with any of the following:
In line with the Whistle Blowing Policy overall responsibility for investigating fraud, corruption and bribery rests with the Treasurer to the Authority.
Members of the public, organisations, Service suppliers and contractors will also be encouraged to raise any issues that concern them through whichever channel they consider appropriate.
Unless there are good reasons to the contrary, any allegations received by way of anonymous letters or telephone calls will be given serious consideration and investigated in an appropriate manner.
SET Members are responsible for acting regarding any allegations of fraud, corruption or bribery that they receive, and they will do so in a thorough, prompt, professional and impartial manner.
The adequacy, appropriateness and effectiveness of internal controls will be independently monitored by the Treasurer’s internal audit service, provided by Sandwell MBC as Lead Authority, as part of their programme of work. Any weaknesses identified in internal control will be reported to the Chief Fire Officer, or any SET Member, whose duty it will be to ensure that corrective action is taken. The Treasurer, as the Section 151 Officer, will use his or her statutory power to enforce the required changes if necessary.
There is a need to ensure that the investigation process is not abused, however, any abuse, such as an employee raising unfounded malicious allegations, may be dealt with as a disciplinary matter. Any unfounded malicious allegations raised by a member of the public may in certain circumstances be dealt with under the malicious communications act 1988 and result in the organisation seeking compensation
The Service is committed to having systems which incorporate internal control features and as such deter fraud, although it is accepted that fraud can still occur.
Under the Authority’s Financial Regulations, SET Members are required to notify the Chief Fire Officer and Treasurer immediately of any irregularity or suspected irregularity.
(The Financial Regulations are on the Intranet, go to MESH Area then click on Finance and Resources and then on the Finance tab which contains the document Financial Regulations.)
Depending upon the nature of any irregularity, the Internal Audit Section of Sandwell MBC will work closely with management and other agencies, where applicable, such as the Police, to ensure that all matters are investigated thoroughly and reported upon.
To enable a consistent approach to be applied to any investigation following the discovery of a fraud, the Internal Audit Section of Sandwell MBC will prepare a plan which will set out the steps to be followed from the initial suspicion of, or discovery of, a fraud and cover the time up to and beyond the point at which the disciplinary procedure is initiated.
The Service’s Disciplinary Procedure will be followed if the initial investigation indicates improper behaviour.
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 gives the Authority a legal recourse to recover money or assets lost through fraudulent actions of employees and/or partnering organisations. The Authority will pursue this through the SET Resources who will co-ordinate all such cases for the Authority.
The Authority recognises and supports the importance of awareness of these issues in the delivery of high quality services and also the concept of fraud awareness by managers and employees involved in internal control systems to ensure that their responsibilities and duties are undertaken in line with the procedures in this and other related Service policies.
Internal and external audit reports are submitted to the Fire Authority and are public documents and can be found on the internet via the front page, selecting “About Us” from the menu options then selecting Fire Authority and following the link for Committee Management Information System (CMIS).
Employees must refuse hospitality where any suggestion of improper influence is possible particularly if the hospitality is offered by a person or body having, or seeking, procurement or other business activities with, or a decision from, the West Midlands Fire Service, particularly where the offer is to an individual employee.
All offers of gifts to any employees of the Service must be refused. However where refusal of a gift has the potential to cause embarrassment to the Service or a gift is delivered, whether that be to an employee’s home address or place of work, and the opportunity to decline does not present itself the gift will be raffled and the proceeds donated to the Firefighters’ Charity.
Gifts from visiting organisations, such as overseas fire services, can be accepted if they have no monetary value, e.g. a commemorative plaque.
If a member of the public wants to give a donation of cash in recognition of the Service they have received, the line manager must forward the donation to the Firefighters’ Charity. Where a cheque is offered it should be made payable to the Firefighters’ Charity.
Where a donation is received the following procedure applies:
All persons wishing to donate should be referred to the line manager as no other person is authorised to accept donations.
The line manger fills in form M1 giving the circumstances which gave rise to the donation, including the name and address of the donor and the amount donated.
The line manager then forwards the donation to the station’s Charity Champion (most if not all stations have a champion) who will be responsible for paying in donations using the Firefighters’ Charity paying in book which is held on each station. The Charity Champion can issue receipts and letters to the donors. For non-station-based employees the donations should be forwarded to the Service Support Administration Team to email@example.com
A register detailing all donations is kept by the Service Support Administration Team.
The sponsorship of individuals by organisations, associated with the Service through tendering for contracts etc, may result in a conflict of interest and therefore must not be requested or accepted by any member of the organisation under any circumstances as this may be viewed as an act of bribery.
The details of any gifts or hospitality offered should be forwarded to a Member of SET for approval. The SET Member decides on the offer and sends one copy of the decision to the individual and one copy to the Hospitality Inbox to be included in the Gifts and Hospitality Register.
The offer of all gifts and hospitality whether accepted or not, must be recorded in the Gifts and Hospitality Register kept and monitored by the Service Support Administration Team. The Strategic Hub are responsible for bringing to the attention of SET any entries on the register that DPM flag as a cause for concern. The register is a public document which is available for anyone to view on the Internet site.
These details should include:
name, post and roll number;
the name of the organisation or individual giving the gift or hospitality;
details of the gift or hospitality given and why; and
the date the gift or hospitality was received.
Should any member of the Service neglect to record their acceptance or decline of any gift or hospitality offered to them, this will be viewed as a breach of the Service’s Core Values and may result in an investigation which could lead to disciplinary action.
All accepted gifts other than those of a presentational nature, e.g. commemorative plaque, must be raffled and the proceeds donated to the Firefighters’ Charity.
Should the service feel it is appropriate to give gifts in certain circumstances, such as to commemorate a visit from a dignitary; gifts should be modest and appropriate. For example, token items such as gifts of a presentational nature given in the spirit of public relations or other tokens often exchanged between organisations, for example, pictures, ties, scarves, plaques.
A personal interest in what may be thought of as a secret, exclusive or extreme organisation that may affect, or be seen by others to affect an employee’s impartiality must be declared. Failure to do so may compromise an employee and/ or the Service. Any employee who does not declare a personal interest may be subject of investigation which could lead to disciplinary action.
In recruitment, promotion or discipline, all employees must believe that equality prevails. Individuals must remember that dealing with colleagues and members of the community in a fair and impartial manner must take precedence over any obligation to another body. If it comes to light that an individual’s actions and behaviour conflict with the Service’s core values, then their actions and behaviour may be considered as part of the disciplinary process.
There are many clubs, organisations, societies and groups to which employees may belong and it is not necessary to declare membership of all such bodies. However, employees should declare membership of any organisation that is not open to the public and demands formal membership, commitment of allegiance and secrecy about rules, membership or conduct.
The Service Support Administration Team are responsible for keeping a register of declarations of membership and gifts and hospitality and the Strategic Hub are responsible for monitoring it. The register is an official public document, available for inspection by auditors, members of the public and external organisations upon request.
All emails and documentation relating to any declaration of membership or gift and hospitality are kept for a period of 6 years for audit purposes.
Declaration of membership should be made by completing the declaration form, found on the intranet / mesh and forwarded to the Service Support Administration Team inbox. When it is not easy to decide between what is, and is not, acceptable, advice should be sought from the line manager.
Employees are responsible for submitting a declaration and advising the Service Support Administration Team of any changes to a declaration they have previously submitted, or for asking for a declaration to be removed from the register if they terminate their membership of an organisation. The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 impose restrictions upon public political activities by certain employees of Local and Joint Authorities. See Employee Conduct in the Political Environment