Fraud Control Could Save €625m

A new fraud initiative focusing on individuals and employers could save the State €625m next year.

According to a statement released by Social Protection Minister, Joan Burton, a detailed fraud control plan could help make colossal savings.

The Minister is proposing inter-agency co-operation at national and local level to help target the crime.

She said: "Social welfare fraud is often perceived as a victimless crime. But I am conscious that it undermines public confidence in the entire system as well as being unfair to other recipients of social welfare payments and taxpayers and legitimate businesses."

The plan will aim to have more social welfare inspectors on the ground and target 'problematic' sectors where fraud is most likely to occur.

Meanwhile increased penalties for those fraudulently claiming benefits will be examined.

Ms Burton also believes that a greater liaison with employers to ensure good information exchange and an enhanced audit department could combat the problem further.

It is envisaged that between 2,500 and 3,500 employer inspections will be carried out in 2012.

The new fraud initiative, which will be submitted for discussion later this year, also gives details of the results of inspections carried out recently as part of a "targeted control project".

During June this year, 320 social welfare recipients were visited. Of those, 43 had their payments suspended – 18 for not attending an interview, 16 for no longer being at their given address, and nine for not providing information such as rent or mortgage details. These visits led to savings of €140k.

There was also a Special Investigation Unit, which focused on individuals suspected of claiming benefits while living outside Ireland. Some 2,862 people were visited and 308 saw their payments stopped, saving €3.24m.

Ms Burton has however emphasised that the vast majority of people are receiving the entitlement due to them.

The Department of Social Protection processes in excess of two million applications each year and it makes payments to over 1.4 million people every week.


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