Wednesday 21 February 2018

More than €200,000 in social welfare 'overpayments' issued to six people in 2016

The report also reveals that in six cases, overpayments of more than €200,000 were made. (Stock picture)
The report also reveals that in six cases, overpayments of more than €200,000 were made. (Stock picture)

Anne Marie Walsh

The Department of Employment and Social Protection is owed €31m by dead people who were overpaid, a new report reveals.

A Comptroller and Auditor General investigation found that the department had a total of 9,275 debts relating to the deceased on its books at the end of last year.

The report also reveals that in six cases, overpayments of more than €200,000 were made.

In one case, a claimant who owed €333,463 at the end of last year got a five year jail sentence for impersonation.

Another case of a suspected fraudulent claim of €332,632 due to impersonation is being investigated by the gardaí and the report said "actions" to recover the money are "pending".

In the remaining four cases, amounts owed ranging from €206,082 to €258,419 were outstanding at the end of last year.

They related to suspected fraudulent claims for jobseekers’ assistance and one parent family claims, one of which dated back to 1990.

In most of these cases, deductions were being made from the individuals’ welfare payments to recover the cash.

The audit showed that the portion of overpayments due to fraud or suspected fraud fell between 2013 and last year.

In 2013, 49pc of overpayments were fraud-related, but last year, just 37pc were.

However, the report said that the drop in fraud cases has been offset by increases in errors made by claimants and ‘estate’ cases. These were cases where it was discovered that someone who had died had not disclosed all of their means.

The number of overpayments due to claimants’ errors rose from 34pc to 42pc, while estate cases shot up from 12pc to 18pc.

Between 2013 and last year, the department recorded overpayments worth between €100m and €120m a year.

The level of overpayment debt rose from €420m to €482m during the same period, while welfare spending fell by just under 9pc.

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