Written answers

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Department of Social Protection

Social Welfare Fraud

Photo of Tony McLoughlinTony McLoughlin (Sligo-Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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65. To ask the Minister for Social Protection the procedures in place to identify welfare fraud nationally; and his plans to tackle welfare fraud nationally and in the Sligo-Leitrim constituency. [35717/16]

Photo of Noel RockNoel Rock (Dublin North West, Fine Gael)
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81. To ask the Minister for Social Protection the procedures in place to identify welfare fraud; and his plans to tackle same. [35888/16]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 81 together.

The majority of people in receipt of a payment from the Department of Social Protection receive what they are entitled to. Nevertheless, the Department recognises that abuse of the welfare system is an ongoing reality and must be tackled through a range of measures.These measures are governed by the Department’s Compliance andAnti-Fraud Strategy2014 – 2018. The actions set out in the strategy are designed to prevent and detect fraud, to ensure effective oversight of schemes, to pursue prosecution of offenders and to pursue the recovery of any overpaid entitlements identified.

All Departmental staff exercise a control and compliance function in processing new applications and reviewing existing entitlements. The systems used to support schemes are designed to detect wrongful claiming and to highlight anomalies. In addition, the Department’s inspectorate undertakes detailed examination of claims on a risk assessed and random basis. This is supplemented by at least three fraud and error surveys of Departmental schemes annually and the findings from the surveys are used to tighten control measures around schemes, where this is found to be warranted. The survey reports are published and subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

In addition, the Deputies should note that my Department’s Special Investigation Unit, which comprises trained inspectors and Garda officers, is tasked with undertaking targeted and systematic examination of claims to tackle fraud and to work with other enforcement agencies to identify more serious breaches of the law.

Cross-functional and targeted actions are undertaken - both internally and in joint operations with other national and international agencies - to ensure a strategic response to high risk sectors or where fraud is considered to be most prevalent. In particular, actions are focused on sectors of the economy where there is a risk of concurrent working and claiming social welfare payments.

Overall, my Department conducts of the order of one million reviews annually comprising customer entitlement reviews, inspections and special investigations.

The Deputies should also note that the continued roll-out of the Public Services Card has considerably reduced the potential for identity fraud and the Department has deployed identity and analytics software and other intelligence systems to reinforce its fraud prevention work.

Members of the public also play an important role in supporting these anti-fraud activities and some 17,000 reports from concerned citizens have been processed already in 2016.

The anti-fraud actions delivered nationally are targeted in the same way in the Sligo and Leitrim areas. As border counties, cross-border dimensions are also relevant in the compliance and ant-fraud actions undertaken by the Special Investigations Unit and other inspectors and investigatory staff.

The Compliance and Anti-Fraud Strategy 2014 – 2018 and annual updates on progress are published on the Department’s website: .

Finally, the Deputies should note that I am looking at various control measures that I hope to roll out in 2017 to strengthen the legislative provisions to deter abuse of the social welfare system. These include publishing the names of persons who are prosecuted for social welfare fraud and applying interest on overpayments resulting from fraud.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.


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