Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (2674, 2675)

Bríd Smith

Question:

2674. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of staff employed in the special investigation unit; the staffing numbers in the unit since 2010; and the budget directed to the unit in each of the years since 2010. [31745/19]

View answer

Bríd Smith

Question:

2675. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the resources in the special investigation unit; and the resources allocated to each category of payment. [31746/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2674 and 2675 together.

The exclusive function of the Department’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) is to investigate and report on the fraud and abuse of social welfare schemes.

The SIU was reconfigured as a national unit in February 2010 and the current structure ensures there is a national and strategic focus on high-risk sectors and social welfare schemes where fraud and abuse is prevalent. Officers are not assigned on a scheme-by-scheme basis - rather all officers can investigate all schemes. The Unit carries out a wide range of control projects and activities and ensures an integrated approach is taken to prevention and detection of social welfare abuse, in conjunction with other areas of the Department involved in control work. It also works jointly with Revenue staff in Joint Investigation Units, with staff from the Workplace Relations Commission, the Gardaí and other compliance and enforcement agencies.

The number of officers working as part of the SIU at any one time can vary depending on vacancies. When the Unit was reconfigured as a national unit in February 2010, there were some 91 officers assigned to it. In late 2014, sanction was provided for 20 Gardaí to be seconded to the Department to work exclusively as part of the Unit.

At the end of June 2019, there were 100 Officers working in SIU together with a further 14 Gardaí, bringing the total number to 114. Plans are currently in place to restore the number of Gardaí to 20 over the coming months, which will bring the number working in the unit to 120 officers.

The costs associated with these officers is met from the Department's central budgets. Contact will be made directly with the Deputy regarding a breakdown of these costs.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.