Friday 19 January 2018

Over €92m overpaid in social welfare last year due to suspected fraud and error

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

JUST over €92m was overpaid last year on welfare payments due to suspected fraud and error, it emerged today.

The figure is up from the €83.4m recorded for 2010.

Department of Social Protection Secretary General Niamh O'Donoghue told the Dail Public Accounts committee that the average overpayment per person in 2010 was €1,585.

But she did not have a breakdown of the figures for 2011.

Ms O'Donoghue said that in 2010, €25.9m was attributed to suspected fraud, while €42.4m was down to customer or third party error.

This included mistakes in application forms and failing to inform the department of changes in circumstances.

Some €5.2m was due to mistakes made by the Department.

Ms O'Donoghue said the Department was taking a renewed approach to tackling fraud.

"Structures and oversight mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that the (Department's Fraud) Initiative is implemented and outcomes monitored," she said.

"In terms of progress and outcomes, the level of control review activity and targets established for 2011 were exceeded, with total savings of €645m."

Meanwhile, Ms O'Donoghue said average waiting times for jobseekers benefit is two weeks and jobseekers allowance is five weeks.

Child benefit applicants wait three weeks on average, she said.

But the figure for Carers Allowance stands at 28 weeks and invalidity pension is 31 weeks.

Ms O'Donoghue said the target wait time is between eight and 16 weeks, and claimed it would take up to nine months for that to be realised.

"I don't find it acceptable that people have to wait that amount of time," Ms O'Donoghue said.

However she pointed out that the department has "continued high activity" across all its services.

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