Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Social Welfare Fraud.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he has received the final report of the consultants Craig Gardner and Company into fraud in the social welfare system; when the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Work on this project commenced in August 1986 and is being carried out in various phases. I expect that all work on the current phase will be completed by early September and the final report will be available shortly afterwards.

The consultants were commissioned to examine the major payment systems in my Department with a view to establishing where they are most at risk and to advise on the best cost-effective measures to keep these risks to a minimum. The project covers all aspects of the schemes and the intention is to eliminate waste or abuse of any sort from the system.

An interim report on disability benefit has been received from the consultants, but the final report will not be available until autumn. The interim report contains a series of recommendations on policy issues, organisational matters, procedural controls and systems development. The interim report recommends for consideration, the transfer of responsibility for the issue of revenue and social insurance numbers, from the Revenue Commissioners to my Department, to strengthen control procedures. It also recommends that the payment of disability benefit by employers be actively considered, as the consultants considered such a transfer would be a more efficient means of paying sickness benefit.

There is as yet insufficient evidence to justify any conclusion regarding the level of abuse in the disability benefit and unemployment payment systems. However, on the strict application of the legisaltive requirement for "availability" and "genuinely seeking work" it was found in a preliminary sample survey that claims for unemployment payments contained some element of fraud or abuse.

Some of these persons may be among those who are currently signing off the register when invited to participate in the national Jobsearch programme introduced following this year's budget.

When the final report is available the further measures indicated will be taken without delay where appropriate. Meanwhile, my Department's anti-fruad measures are being maintained and strengthened in line with the consultant's preliminary recommendations.

As regards publication of the report, it may not be appropriate to publish it in view of the confidential nature of its subject matter as publication might prejudice the ongoing work of the Department. This is a matter, however, on which I obviously cannot give a decision until I have received the report and had time to consider its implications. However, I would be happy to make available a summary of the main findings.

I am so incensed by the unemployment projection figures the Minister gave with regard to the previous supplementary——

We are dealing with Question No. 17.

We are dealing with fraud in social welfare. The Taoiseach has defrauded this House by making spurious claims about unemployment, these claims are exposed here today. The Minister admits that 6,540 more people will be unemployed than was projected three months ago in the phoney Estimates. That is fraud.

I ask the Deputy to deal with the subject matter of Question No. 17.

The Deputy should withdraw those ridiculous remarks——

Will you withdraw the ridiculous claims?

——and refrain from making them in future. I appreciate the Deputy is under pressure and tension in recent times.

Nothing compared with the unemployed.

For that reason I should waive his behaviour here this afternoon. I have given the reply to this question and the Deputy has not asked a supplementary question on it.

I ask the Minister is it any wonder there is fraud in the social welfare system when the Taoiseach himself and the Minister for Social Welfare come in and try to defraud this House and the thousands of people unemployed by making excessive claims as to what they will do about employment, when in fact unemployment is rampant and is mainly caused by the policies of this Government.

The allegation is so ridiculous that it does not justify comment. The figures which are given, and the official Estimates show that expenditure in this area will be in line with the predictions at the beginning of the year. I appreciate that Deputy Mitchell finds it hard to understand weighted averages and seasonalised figures but nevertheless perhaps someone might take time to explain them to him.

Question time has concluded.