STEPS have been taken to avoid fraud at Clackmannanshire Council, elected members have heard.

An issue relating to a weakness in controls over changes to bank details of suppliers in contract with the local authority was identified earlier this year by independent experts at the Accounts Commission.

In an audit of the council’s annual accounts, presented at Kilncraigs last week, the commission said steps have been taken to address the problem and progress will be reviewed next year.

A presentation by Police Scotland to councillors earlier this year, with slides seen by the Advertiser, showed how fraudsters could access information which is available to the public and use it to pretend to be a business in contract with a public body.

Criminals using the details might then initiate a fraudulent change of bank details in order to gain funds themselves and if not verified on the other end, this can result in the loss of taxpayers' money.

In one example this method was successfully used to defraud a university.

Interim testing earlier this year found that more than half of the 20 cases that were sample tested had no recorded evidence of supplier verification.

Of those 11 cases with no verification, supplier bank details had been changed on four occasions without verifying that the requests to change were authentic.

Assurances were given at the time that details were verified on each occasion, but they were not recorded and filed properly every time.

Documents at last week's Audit Committee explained “this was concerning, needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency and that until this matter was resolved financial and reputational risks to the council would remain”.

During previous chamber debates, increasing security was stated a matter of utmost importance, as was vigilance among staff, with a greater emphasis on checks employees must carry out to make sure the request is genuine.