Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Questions (798)

Joan Collins

Question:

798. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of allegations of social welfare fraud that were investigated in 2017 and 2018; the number of such allegations that were unfounded; the savings arising from allegations which were upheld; and the cost in staff hours of pursuing such cases. [29650/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Reports from members of the public on their suspicions of social welfare fraud or wrongdoing are an important element in my Department’s overall efforts to prevent and detect fraudulent activity.  Welfare fraud can be reported in a variety of ways. The  Department provides a dedicated service on its website to enable reports to be made.  A concerned member of the public can also write to the Department or telephone with information.

The Department is not able to make use of all the information it receives, for example where insufficient information is provided to identify a person or the person might not be in receipt of a social welfare payment.  In addition, there are many situations where the information provided about a person may not constitute fraud and may already be known or may be permitted under the terms of a particular scheme.

The number of allegations of social welfare fraud recorded as received in the Department in the years 2017 and 2018 and the number referred for investigation is set out in the following table.

TABLE: Reports of suspected social welfare fraud from members of the public received and referred for investigation 2017-2018

Year

Reports Received

Of reports received - number referred for investigation

2017

21,223

14,363

2018

14,822

9,791

Each report receives a preliminary examination for relevance and to identify the persons concerned and if they are in receipt of a social welfare payment.  Where a person can be identified and sufficient information is provided to warrant a further examination, the report is referred to the relevant scheme area in the Department, to a Social Welfare Inspector for further investigation or to the Special Investigations Unit for more serious allegations. 

A payment is not suspended or stopped on the basis of the report received – instead this happens when evidence of wrong-doing has been ascertained by the appropriate scheme area.  

All reports are received on an anonymous and confidential basis. The report received provides a ‘trigger’ for the instigation of a review of a specific entitlement and further investigation if that is considered to be warranted.  Given the hearsay nature of the reports, they are excluded from the statutory decision-making process and do not form part of any evidence when the case is considered.  Accordingly, I am advised that the Department does not track the outcome of the individual allegations of wrongdoing received. For this reason, the cost in staff hours cannot be disaggregated. These activities form part of the control work which is a core function of all officers of my Department.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.