Monday 24 November 2014

Sacked civil servant pocketed welfare cash

Published 13/11/2012 | 05:00

ONLY one civil servant working for the Department of Social Protection has been sacked as a result of a fraud investigation in the last five years.

Figures requested by the Irish Independent from the department reveal that a second social welfare employee resigned in advance of being dismissed in the same period.

However, the department was unable to provide figures on the number of employees who have been investigated for fraud.

A spokesperson for the department added that in the event of a fraud being uncovered, the policy was to seek the dismissal of the employee in question. In no circumstances would employees be censured or have their pay grade cut as an alternative.

The figures came to light as it emerged that a civil servant was sacked after it was discovered she had fraudulently diverted money to her own bank account and awarded allowances to relatives and friends.

The employee was found to be in breach of department rules on 13 occasions, according to information released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The fraud was uncovered last year during a probe that found a number of irregularities. She met with senior department officials in September 2011, where she was informed that she was suspected of mishandling taxpayers' money and breaching department guidelines.

Stress

When confronted about one aspect of the fraud, which saw her continue to award welfare benefits to a relative who was out of the country, the employee had claimed she was "not thinking properly". On another occasion she blamed the "stress of Christmas time" for submitting forms without the proper authorisation.

The most serious issue was the diversion of a person's jobseeker's allowance payments into her own back account.

This was done "without his knowledge and for a period when he was not entitled to payment as he was outside the State", the report states.

After being told that the incidents were considered a "serious misconduct" the employee was sacked in March.

She appealed the decision to the secretary general, requesting a "lesser penalty". This appeal was ignored.

"It is the policy of the department that dismissal is sought in any case of substantiated fraud," a department spokesman said.

"The Department has internal control procedures and guidelines. Where a staff member breaches these procedures they are dealt with in accordance with the Civil Service Disciplinary Code which can result in sanctions up to dismissal from the Civil Service. Where appropriate, cases are referred to the gardai."

Irish Independent

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