Wednesday 19 June 2019

Call for spare funds in Injuries Board to be used to fight insurance fraud

Charlie Flanagan (Liam McBurney/PA)
Charlie Flanagan (Liam McBurney/PA)
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

THE Government has been urged to use spare funds in the State’s Personal Injuries Assessment Board to fund a dedicated Garda unit to fight insurance fraud.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform said there are reserves of €17m in the Injuries Board which could be used set up centralised fraud unit.

It comes after plans for a centralised insurance unit were dropped.

Instead, insurance fraud will be dealt with at divisional level in An Garda Síochána, with guidance provided by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau in Dublin.

A Department of Finance working group on insurance reform had recommended the setting up of a specialised unit within the Gardaí to detect exaggerated and fraudulent personal injury claims.

Insurers had agreed to collectively pay €1m a year to the State to fund the new fraud unit.

But there was unease within Government about funding for the Gardaí coming from insurers.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan confirmed in a Dáil reply that there will not now be a centralised investigation unit.

Director of the Alliance for Insurance Reform Peter Boland said the decision not to have a dedicated and central insurance fraud unit within the Gardaí was a “fudge”.

He said a specialised insurance fraud unit has been Government policy since early 2017 and was also fully endorsed by the Personal Injuries Commission. 

“After two years of delay, it now appears that a fudge is being developed by way of generalised divisional fraud units.”

The best way to tackle insurance fraud was with a properly-funded, specialised unit at headquarters level, coordinating a specific response to insurance fraud, Mr Boland said.

"Not only would such a structure provide a dedicated channel for complaints and prosecutions regarding insurance fraud, but it would act as a clear deterrent to anyone considering lodging a fraudulent or exaggerated insurance claim.” 

He said the Personal Injuries Assessment Board has reserves of €17m made up mainly of fees paid by policyholders against whom claims have been lodged.

“So it would make absolute sense that the Government use these funds to establish a dedicated Garda unit that would be central to the fight against fraudulent claims.”

The money will end up being taken by the Government, if it is not used to fund a centralised Garda fraud unit.

And Fianna Fáil accused the Government of wasting more than two years promising the establishment of a special unit in An Garda Síochána to investigate insurance fraud.

Finance spokesman Michael McGrath said: “All the while, businesses the length and breadth of the country are facing massive increases in their insurance premium.”

He said insurance fraud is one of the factors leading to high insurance costs.

Insurance fraud continues to be a major issue and the Government is not taking it seriously enough, Mr McGrath said.

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