SEVERAL cases of fraud and malpractice have been uncovered at the Department of Social Protection in the past year.
The Irish Independent has obtained documents showing that a number of social welfare officials abused their position.
In one incident a former senior civil servant was jailed after he ran a major fraud operation targeting at least 20 customers.
The Dublin man scammed the taxpayer out of €17,000 and told his superiors that: "Nobody cared about controls since 2007."
Separately, documents relating to a 'leaking' case show that another employee was found to have been unlawfully providing personal data to an official in a different state agency.
A third case which prompted an investigation involved a welfare official who wrote a letter purporting to be from a member of the public in order to have a benefit stopped.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton told the Irish Independent it is "absolutely essential" that people can deal in confidence with the department.
"The department takes the most serious view of any kind of fraud or abuse in relation to people's personal details," she said.
The most serious of cases revealed today relates to 48-year-old Brian King, who was sentenced to 16 months in prison earlier this year for his role in a social welfare scam.
Mr King, of Springhill Avenue, Blackrock, unlawfully issued overpayments to welfare customers before pocketing the money in the form of refunds.
The three-year scam was only uncovered after an anonymous letter was sent to the Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection, Niamh O'Donoghue.
The department's internal investigation into King's scam, seen by the Irish Independent, details how the fraudster issued bogus receipts and then pocketed the money.
He then contacted those affected and requested to meet them in locations such as taxi bays and supermarket car parks in a bid to have the money returned. He also began socialising with some customers he overpaid.
Mr King, who worked in the one-parent family section, appealed against his dismissal on the grounds that he had developed a gambling addiction "as a direct result of the pressure and stress I was put under in my work environment".
The appeals board rejected his appeal application.