Federal government departments lost almost $100 million due to fraud in just one year, a new report has shown.
Figures from the Australian Institute of Criminology show there were more than 345,000 cases of substantiated fraud in the 2016-17 financial year, with $93.7 million lost, out of more than 351,000 cases that concluded.
Of the 131 federal government department bodies, 50 of them finalised at least one fraud investigation during the year.
Alarmingly, the number of external fraud cases - cases not involving staff members - rose dramatically, increasing from 3125 in 2015-16 to 349,166 in 2016-17.
The large rise was due to fraud involving a retail payment card system that allowed cardholders to conduct transactions using stolen cards.
"The majority of these investigations involved one large entity," the report said.
The report also said that federal agencies and departments still represented a large target for fraudsters.
"Entities are attractive targets for people willing to commit fraud targeting the programs funded by the government, payments made by service providers, the information held or the resources administered," the report said.
"The Australian Commonwealth faces a greater number of fraud threats from those external to the entity than from employees."
The institute did warn against a sense of complacency about fraud cases committed by public servants, after internal fraud investigations rose by 86 per cent.
The most common types of internal fraud came from the misuse of government credit cards, procurement payments and entity cash.
According to the report, government departments said a lack of resources and staff were the most common reasons fraud was not properly investigated.
"At the heart of prevention and deterrence is the need to detect fraud as early as possible," the report said.
"The main take-home message... is that having adequate resources to actively look for fraud, to encourage fraud prevention and to have trained investigators will allow entities to have a greater understanding of where their fraud risks lie."
While almost all departments had at least one employee who looked at fraud control, 77 per cent of departments had no dedicated staff to fraud-related duties.
Fraud was more commonly carried out internally by 35 to 44-year-olds, with an even number of male and female suspects.
No public servants at the senior executive staff level were suspects in internal fraud cases.
The most common external fraud suspects were older, aged between 55 and 64, with more women identified as suspects.
During the 2016-17 financial year, fraud investigations began on 2345 internal cases, an increase from 1236 the year before, while investigations began on a further 347,000 external fraud cases.
It's estimated $109 million was lost as a result from the fraud cases that were opened for investigations during 2016-17.
The report said as of June 30, 2017, 140 fraud related matters were still being investigated, with a dollar value of $2.4 billion.