Saturday 31 January 2015

Gardai investigate 'misappropriation of funds' worth up to €1.2m at Department of Social Protection

Daniel McConnell Group Political Correspondent

Published 01/05/2014 | 12:20

Joan Burton TD Deputy Leader and minister for social protection speaks to media  at the Labour party conference at Johnstown House Hotel, Enfield this afternoon.
Pic STEPHEN COLLINS/Collins Photos
Joan Burton, deputy Labour Party leader and Minister for Social Protection at the party’s conference at Johnstown. STEPHEN COLLINS/COLLINS

Three Social Welfare public servants "colluded" with third parties to defraud the taxpayer of €1.3m, it emerged today.

Two cases are currently under Garda investigation, accounting officers at Minister Joan Burton's department told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

One staff member, working in the community welfare division, colluded over a six year period between 2006 and 2012 to scam the taxpayer of more than €1 million.

Fine Gael LImerick TD and PAC vice chairman Kieran O'Donnell said the revelations were "truly shocking" and begged to know who it went unnoticed for so long.

"Over €1 million over a six year period, is almost €170,000 a year or three or four thousand a week and it went on for six years. Incredible," he said.

Two employees are currently under suspension while another has been dismissed "during the course of 2013."

Niamh O'Donoghue, Secretary General at the Department of Social Protection said the misappropriation cases were "atypical" and most certainly not the norm.

She said she was restricted in what she could say given the two Garda investigations are underway.

The committee earlier heard from the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) that debt outstanding relating to overpayments stood at €375 million, while overpayments totalling in €97million were recorded in 2012.

Irregular payments arise where recipients are paid amounts "to which they are not entitled" or which "exceed their entitlements."

Such payments can arise from administrative error by Ms Burton's department or from fraudulent claims.

The department said it has developed a new anti-fraud policy for 2014-2018.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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