There is a total of 91 staff assigned to the Department’s special investigation unit, SIU, and their function is to investigate and report on fraud and abuse within the social welfare system. As part of a range of initiatives to prevent and detect fraud, the unit participates in multi-agency vehicle checks, MAVCs, on an ongoing basis. Members are probably familiar with them. These are primarily set up by An Garda Síochána and are planned in consultation with other participating agencies such as the Revenue Commissioners and my Department. MAVCs facilitate an approach whereby all agencies can comprehensively identify individuals engaged in vehicle tax evasion, road traffic irregularities or social welfare and tax fraud in particular locations.
In line with powers that are specifically provided for in social welfare legislation, SIU officers participate in these checkpoints in the detection and prevention of social welfare fraud. The general focus of inquiries is related to individuals driving commercial vehicles – haulage, transport and taxi – including those at taxi ranks at airports. Where inquiries suggest that irregularities have occurred, they are pursued further. A significant number of cases are subject to court procedures subsequently.
Statistics on MAVCs undertaken by the SIU have only been collated with effect from 2010. In the period 2010 to date, there was a total of 230 MAVCs. Up to the end of May 2013, there was a total of 24 checkpoints across the Department’s regional network.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In the Border, midland and western regions, a total of 33 checkpoints were put in place with An Garda Síochána and Revenue in 2010, and there were 30 in 2011 and 25 in 2012. In the southern and south-eastern regions, a total of 28 checkpoints were put in place with An Garda Síochána and Revenue in 2010, and there were 29 in 2011 and 29 in 2012. In the Dublin region, no checkpoints were put in place in 2010, and a total of 18 were put in place in 2011 and 14 in 2012. Up to the end of May 2013, a total of 24 checkpoints were put in place across the Department’s regional network. I believe that these checks are a very useful element of the overall control activities undertaken by the SIU and they facilitate a joined-up and integrated approach to the investigation of a range of offences.