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The government has awarded a one-year, £360,000 contract to Quantexa, a provider of network analytics software, to combat Covid-19 loan scheme fraud.
During the pandemic, fraudsters abused the government’s loan scheme, and this contract seems to be part of a response to those criminal activities.
The Cabinet Office published the award of the contract, between its Counter-Fraud Function and Quantexa, in September, to enable civil servants to identify fraudsters. The supplier’s technology, called Contextual Decision Intelligence (CDI), is said to enable customers to “create a connected view of [their] data to reveal relationships between people, places and organisations”.
This identification of entities is “linked into networks, indexed and scored using analytical models for fraud waste and abuse”, according to the award contract disclosure.
The award was disclosed shortly after The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) announced it had earmarked up to £2bn in potential spending for big data storage and analytics projects, by government departments, over a four-year period, from 2022 to 2026.
The Cabinet Office, which has declared the Quantexa contract, took control of government data policy in July 2020, back from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). This contract can be plausibly seen as an expression of its centralised data analytics programme across government.
Quantexa said in a statement that its “advanced CDI software delivers best-in-class scheme-level network analytics, and this will help Government efforts to pinpoint companies and individuals suspected of fraud. This would be impossible or impractical for manual processes to achieve. With CDI, data becomes more accessible and datasets from many sources join together to reveal real-world illicit behaviours bolstering the ability to detect and deter future fraud.”
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The software is used by HSBC and Standard Chartered in their anti-fraud departments. The Croydon-based supplier was incorporated in 2016.
Vishal Marria, CEO of Quantexa, said: “The Covid loan schemes were designed to help the nation at a time of deep economic need … Contextual Decision Intelligence is invaluable when organisations need to dig deeper for better intelligence and insights, spot hidden risks and opportunities, and make better decisions.”
The contract is for software and services to be accessed by 10 users in the Cabinet Office.
The software can be used for non-Covid-19 grant and procurement fraud proofs of concept, but its use is not a “full production-based system”, according to the G-Cloud contract.
In October 2020, the National Audit Office (NAO) published an investigation to the Government’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme. In the report, the NAO stated: “The Cabinet Office’s Government Counter Fraud Function believes fraud losses are likely to be significantly above the general estimates of public sector fraud levels of 0.5% to 5%.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson told Computer Weekly: “We are working with Quantexa as part of our work to detect fraud in the Covid-19 loan schemes. This latest technology is one of the many tools used by the Government to fight fraud.”