Friday 31 October 2014

Fraud and error means €2.7m a week lost in benefit mix-up

John Downing Political Correspondent

Published 17/06/2014 | 02:30

SOME €2.7m per week is wrongly paid out through error or deliberate fraud in payments to unemployed people.

A new study by the Department of Social Protection, involving sample spot checks on pay-outs, suggests that up to 95pc of payments are free of the risk of error or fraud.

The department is also introducing a new computerised system to allow quick scanning of documents to help eliminate mistakes and dishonesty in cases where part-time workers are also claiming reduced dole.

The latest study results come from a sample spot-check of 1,000 unemployed people claiming so-called Jobseekers' Allowance in September 2012. It found fraud cases were running at 2pc of the total while 11pc of cases involved money being paid out in error.

Extrapolating from the sample, officials estimated that total "wrong payments", involving either error or fraud, could total as little as €1.9m per week or as high as €3.4m.

Spot-check

The average of these figures is put at €2.7m.The spot-check sampling system is being monitored by the Comptroller & Auditor General and officials say changes and refinements suggested are taken on board.

Among the 1,000 cases sampled 21 were classified as "fraud" and 15 of these people had their claims terminated while a further six people had their payments reduced.

The number of errors out of the 1,000 people sampled was put at 128 in total with 119 of these being mistakes made by the claimants. Nine cases were classified as "departmental error".

The Social Protection Department has said that a new system of scanned dockets has been introduced at 65 pc of welfare offices to improve the recording of so-called "casual claimants" who are declared as working part-time and claiming reduced welfare payments.

One official said they are targeting an improvement of controls in this area and all offices will have the necessary scanning technology as soon as possible.

The Department of Social Protection pays out a total of €21bn per year in all its various welfare schemes. Almost €3bn of this is paid in Jobseekers' Allowance each year.

Irish Independent

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