Belfast Telegraph

£5m in Government payments fraud

More than £5 million of pensions, housing benefit and rates fraud and overpayments have been detected in Northern Ireland.

The waste was detected as part of the national Fraud Initiative which uses sophisticated techniques for matching information from different Government bodies.

Comptroller and auditor general Kieran Donnelly said it was essential the Government used all preventative means possible.

He said: "Every public sector body has a duty to demonstrate a zero tolerance to fraud and to play its part in challenging those who seek to commit fraud."

Between April 1, 2012 and March 31 this year, the value of payments challenged was worth £5.5 million, including:

:: Over £3.3 million of pensions fraud and overpayment

:: Over £1.6 million of housing benefit fraud and overpayment

:: Over £350,000 of rates fraud and overpayment

The total included incorrect payments stopped and an estimate of future savings achieved by no longer making the payments.

Part of the matching process involved checking blue badge and public transport pass records with the deaths register.

There were more than 5,000 matches between blue badge holder records and deaths.

This usually means the badges were not returned after the deaths of holders and could potentially be used fraudulently, the audit office said.

There were almost 10,000 matches between concessionary travel pass holder records and deaths.

More than 100 public bodies took part in the third running of the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) in Northern Ireland.

The audit office said: "There is still evidence of over-investigation by some participating bodies.

"Organisations should target investigations on known fraud risks and should not continue to investigate matches when no fraud or error is being found.

"Some participating bodies continue to do much of their NFI work offline, with results and outcomes uploaded to the secure NFI website at a later stage.

"This has the two-fold disadvantage of creating more work than is necessary and increasing the risk to data security."


From Belfast Telegraph