Thursday, 9 February 2017
Department of Education and Skills
Student Grant Scheme Payments
87. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if there have been a number of write-offs with regard to recouping paid funds in each of the years since SUSI was formed in relation to discovered overpayment of maintenance grants by SUSI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6445/17]
The City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) was appointed as the national student grant awarding authority in 2012. To deliver this statutory function, CDETB set up a business unit called SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland).
The assessment of student grant applications by SUSI is a significant undertaking each year involving in excess of 100,000 applications. While every effort is made to prevent error and the overpayment of grants, some overpayments will nevertheless occur.
Where overpayments do occur, SUSI treats the overpayment as a debt to the exchequer and seeks to ensure that all such payments are recovered from the student. This approach is consistent with the general policy and principle regarding the recovery of debt, as set out in the Student Support Act 2011.
Some difficulties were encountered by SUSI in its first year of operations when processes and procedures were being rolled out for the first time. In light of the circumstances in which these overpayments incurred, the approval of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was obtained for write-off of these specific overpayments as an exceptional measure in 2016.
Since 2013, SUSI has made significant improvements to its internal control systems and procedures to enhance control and reduce the potential of future overpayments occurring.
It operates a comprehensive set of processes and controls to manage the assessment process and to minimise the risk of incorrectly awarding grants. Such measures include comprehensive training for new staff as well as updates for existing staff on new scheme rules, and improved quality control procedures including random sample checking of ongoing grant applications by SUSI’s Quality Assurance Team.
SUSI has also strengthened data sharing processes with other relevant agencies such as the Department of Social Protection (DSP) and the Revenue Commissioners, as a means of ensuring significantly improved accuracy when assessing grant eligibility.