Thursday, 24 October 2013

Questions (146)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

146. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of reports her Department received from members of the public in 2012 regarding social welfare fraud; the number of reports that were investigated; the number investigated successfully; the number of prosecutions brought; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45532/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

All anonymous or confidential reports received are examined and where relevant, are referred to scheme owners and/or to the Department's inspectors for follow-up action. It is very important to note that a payment is not suspended or stopped on the basis of an anonymous report. The anonymous report, however, may be a “trigger” for a review of a customer's entitlement. In 2012, 28,022 anonymous reports were dealt with by the Department's Control Division. In 18,306 cases, a report of suspected fraud was sent to the relevant area for examination.In 9,716 of the cases received, it was not possible to issue a report due to lack of information, no claim being in payment or the information reported would not impact on entitlement.

It should be borne in mind that while there is sometimes a perception of fraud, when a case is examined the individual may be doing something that is allowed under the rules for the particular payment that they are in receipt of. For example, a claimant can be working and receiving a One Parent Family payment provided earnings are within the limits and the Department is aware the situation is legitimate. Anonymous reports are not available to deciding officers when making their decisions. A deciding officer's decision will be based on the full facts and circumstances of the case, including in many instances the report of a social welfare inspector. As a result, statistics on the outcomes of anonymous reports are not available. In addition, prosecutions are not instigated on the basis of anonymous reports.

It is the Department's policy to consider for prosecution cases of fraud against the social welfare system. The Department ensures that all cases that merit prosecution are forwarded for consideration of legal proceedings. In considering cases of social welfare fraud for legal proceedings the Department applies defined and recognised best practice standards. This includes the duration of the fraud, amount overpaid, previous incidences of social welfare fraud etc. At the end of 2012, 675 cases were in the courts system (i.e. on hand with the Chief State Solicitor/Local State Solicitor), at various stages of the process.