SOCIAL Welfare Minister Mary Hanafin has defended her department’s anti-fraud measures amid reports they are costing taxpayers €2 billion.
She said some programmes were more prone to bogus claims than others and it was wrong to assume 10% of all payments were to people who should not have been entitled to them.
“Within schemes, some categories of claimants can be a much higher risk than others and when these are identified the department moves to address the issue.
“This does not mean that all schemes or all groups of recipients are involved in fraud.
“The vast majority of people who seek a social welfare payment are doing so correctly and within their entitlement,” he said.
On Monday RTÉ’s Prime Time carried out a comprehensive investigation on individual welfare fraudsters. It identified people claiming dole in multiple locations and using false social security numbers to cheat the system.
During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the department had failed to introduce secure identity cards to verify claims and it had not done enough to protect the budget it had been given.
“It appears as if the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Minister for Social and Family Affairs have been entirely incompetent in dealing with the scale of this robbery from the taxpayer’s pocket.
“Despite the litany of actions the minister talks about having implemented, fraud remains on a vast scale,” he said.
Mr Kenny said there were people who needed welfare who would have it cut in today’s budget because the money was leaking away through fraud.
And any amount of fraud was too much if it took from the vulnerable.
“Even if it is not €2bn it is €1.5bn too many.
“In the budget the Government will take money from carers, the disabled and genuine recipients of welfare who are on the bread line. In the area of social welfare, children do not commit fraud.
“Pensioners, by and large, do not commit fraud. Disabled persons and carers do not commit fraud. Where is it going on?” said Mr Kenny.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said anti-fraud measures had always been a part of the welfare process and this was taken seriously to protect the funding for genuine claimants.
“Obviously these are sensitive areas but I do not accept there is a complacency or that there is not an added determination in the Department of Social and Family Affairs because of the fact that we want to ensure that people who require assistance get it, that anyone who is seeking to cheat on that system is cheating against the taxpayer and those who require those payments,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved