Howlin confirms private debt collectors being considered for unpaid state fines and bills
PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has confirmed that the Government is considering the use of private debt collectors to recover money owed to the State.
It came after the Irish Independent revealed that his department is hiring consultants to examine how much it costs the public service to try to recover unpaid debts in terms of staff, buildings and technology.
And for the first time, it is going to investigate the possibility of handing over the task completely to private debt collection agencies. This will include social welfare overpayments which have not been recovered, uncollected court fines, and unpaid hospital bills.
Mr Howlin said his department was looking at the best way of collecting the money owed to the State.
“So it’s open to review whether we leave it as is, and let every particular agency, whether it’s the HSE or the Courts Service continue as is, or whether we have one centralised agency as we have established now for human resource management, or whether we might look at a private option,” he told reporters.
Mr Howlin said that no decision had yet been made on whether the Government would opt to hire private debt collection companies.
“We obviously want people to pay what they owe the State,” he said.
The Department of Social Protection currently is owed over €340m by social welfare recipients who were over-paid by mistake or make fraudulent claims. The Revenue, which has a reputation for aggressively pursuing tax, is still owed €1.3bn in outstanding bills according to the figures in its most recent 2011 annual report.
Although some public sector bodies such as the University of Limerick have begun to employ debt collectors