$60 million saved in welfare fraud

March 27th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Jo Goodhew announced:

Associate Minister for Social Development Jo Goodhew has welcomed news that since benefit fraud reform initiatives began two years ago, up to $60 million of taxpayers’ money has been saved.

“Over the past two and a half years around 9,500 benefits have been cancelled after fraudulent and illegitimate payments were discovered. These changes hold people to account for their actions, and make it difficult to defraud the welfare system,” Mrs Goodhew says.

A vast majority of the fraud has been identified through increased information sharing with Inland Revenue. This allows MSD to quickly identify if a client has under-declared their income – which can affect benefit payments.

An excellent use of data sharing.

Another one of the key initiatives is stricter monitoring of low-trust clients where they have previously committed fraud.

Also sensible.

Champion bodybuilder on welfare for over seven years

November 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

A BENEFITS cheat who claimed to be too weak to walk has turned out to be Mr Wales, a competitive bodybuilder.

Peter Beddoe, 49, from South Wales, claimed nearly $54,000 in disability benefits while at the same time competing in bodybuilding championships, even taking out the title in the Mr Wales Over 40 contest. …

He was being paid the higher rate of disability allowance meant for people who could not walk, Wales Online reported.

He scammed the system claiming he needed a walking stick, crutches or other means of support to be able to get around, a far cry from the images of him strutting his stuff on stage.

Officials from the Department of Work and Pensions launched an investigation after two tip offs that he was illegally claiming benefits while competing in bodybuilding contests.

The investigation uncovered that he made 340 visits to the gym in one year alone, using weights in his training sessions.

Prosecutor Stuart McLeese said, “Between 2008 and 2013 he visited the gym more than 1,100 times.”

Not bad for someone who claimed he couldn’t walk!

On welfare for 22 years

October 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Waikato’s worst benefit fraudster says she never spent a cent of the nearly $300,000 she stole on herself.

Huntly woman Ruth Pitovao Pomate, 46, who was sentenced to nearly three years’ jail yesterday, says she was under pressure to provide for not only her six children, but also her parents over the 22-year period she stole $296,000 from the taxpayer.

Pomate told the Waikato Times before she was put behind bars that she was not “a bad person” and was trying to do her best for her family.

She said had never spent a cent on herself and didn’t even own her own clothes.

Pomate now holds the dubious title of Waikato’s worst benefit fraudster after exceeding the total clocked up by Sokha Ly who was in August jailed for defrauding $220,000 over a 12-year period.

The Huntly District Court heard how Pomate was first granted a sickness benefit in 1992 before going on to receive the domestic purposes benefit from 1996 through to January 14, this year.

The fraud is of course criminal, and it is appropriate she has been prosecuted.

But for me it is equally an issue that even without the fraud, she has spent 22 years on welfare. It appears she has not worked since 1992.

Before going into court, Pomate stressed that she was not a bad person.

“I have already told my kids that it is going to be embarrassing for them. But they also know that I never did it for me, it’s always been for them so that they always have a home.”

Or she could have got a job.

Less welfare fraud

August 7th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Chester Borrows announced:

With the seven key initiatives in the package now all underway or in force, Mr Borrows today released figures showing the programme had already recouped or saved over $47 million and stopped thousands of illegitimate or fraudulent benefits.

The effect on the lifetime liability of current beneficiaries is estimated at a reduction of between $119 and $134 million as of March 2014.

“This Government has put in place a package of reforms to get smarter with the way we approach welfare fraud, and it’s very pleasing to see these reforms delivering such positive results,” says Mr Borrows.

“While we know it is only a tiny minority of beneficiaries who take money they’re not entitled to, those who do cost tens of millions of dollars each year, and we’re committed to stopping them.

“With the addition of these new measures, the Ministry of Social Development is stopping more fraud than ever before.  Investigators completed 4,614 investigations, established 2,270 overpayments and prosecuted 893 people during the 2013/14 year.  In total $88.4 million of fraud and illegitimate overpayments were established.”

That is not an insignificant amount of money.

“In its first year of operations this enhanced information sharing has prevented an estimated $44.8 million in illegitimate benefits from going out the door, and resulted in almost 6,900 benefits being cancelled.

The Greens will be outraged that someone had their benefit cancelled.

Yeah nah on welfare fraud

March 20th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chester Borrows released:

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows says Labour needs to be clear on where they stand on welfare fraud.

“Yesterday morning David Cunliffe said he would scrap our legislation to hold partners complicit in welfare fraud to account, but later in the day Labour supported it,” says Mr Borrows.

“I was pleased to have such broad support from across the Parliament, including the Labour Party, for our bill.

“So to see Mr Cunliffe promising in an online interview just that morning to scrap these changes was disappointing, even though he changed his mind later in the day.”

Another blatant yeah nah moment where the answer is dependent on who the audience is. The interview with leftie journo Gordon Campbell is here:

Does Labour oppose the government’s new welfare fraud policy whereby the partners of welfare fraudsters will be criminally liable for the fraud, and for the repayment of the entire amount – and not simply for the amount from which they might have indirectly benefitted. If re-elected will Labour retain this provision or scrap it ?

Scrap it.

Yet Labour went on to vote for the bill at the second reading. And they wonder why voters don’t know what they stand for.

Give the Greens some credit – they voted against the bill, as they are opposed to it. Only Labour states they will repeal it, yet vote for it!

Preventing repeat benefit fraud

October 13th, 2013 at 1:36 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New measures to crack down on beneficiaries who have previously cheated the system will begin tomorrow.

The ‘low trust client’ rules are aimed at preventing those with a history of benefit fraud from repeated the abuse.

It will apply to people who have been convicted of welfare fraud in the past or had overpayments established following a fraud investigation.

The new law will apply to an estimated 1500 per year, the Government says.

“These people have proven, through their own actions, that they are willing to be dishonest with the welfare system and take money they are not entitled to,” said associate social development minister Chester Borrows.

“With these new measures we will have sensible steps to prevent them repeating this behaviour, such as requiring them to deal face-to-face with a single case manager.”

As with many of the changes in this area, it sounds very sensible and somewhat overdue.

The value of data-matching

July 18th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

More than 3000 alleged welfare cheats receiving a total of $33.7 million a year have been caught in the past six months.

The Government says the findings are the result of a new way of sharing information between Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development which started this while it is also looking at tying the amount of money they have to pay back to their wages in a bid to recoup costs faster.

Associate social development minister Chester Borrows said a total of 3139 people were caught in the investigation, with 1948 on an unemployment benefit and 559 on a sickness benefit.

He said the ministry believed it would be able to prove a ”big chunk of them” were intentionally defrauding the taxpayer though some could have been a legitimate oversight, he said.

”The fact is that these 3139 have been found to be paying more tax than they should have been if they were only earning their $100 a week maximum that they were allowed to on a benefit so there is obviously a reason for suspicion there,” he said.

That’s a great practical example of the value of being able to have IRD and WINZ check data with each other.

A major fraud case

April 15th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Chester Borrows announced last week:

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows today congratulated Police and the Ministry of Social Development on a joint investigation which has uncovered a sizeable welfare payment fraud out of South Auckland.

As part of the government’s new interagency fraud group, the Welfare Fraud Collaborative Action Programme, MSD and Police worked together on a case involving a bogus dental practice and hundreds of thousands of welfare dollars.

Police have arrested a 48 year old man and 51 year old woman as part of ‘Operation Novocaine’ and they face deception and other charges. They are being held at the Manukau Police Station overnight and will appear in the Manukau District Court tomorrow.

“Police worked closely with the Ministry of Social Development after it uncovered a scam involving beneficiaries who falsely claimed for emergency dental treatment,” says Mr Borrows.

“Providing false documents the pair allegedly took a 25 per cent cut of each payment. In total $375,000 was paid out since December 2011. The vast majority of the payments were benefit advances and the beneficiaries in the main are repaying these out of their regular benefit payments. The small number who received grants will also now be required to repay the money.

The amount is not major, but the number of people involved was. Each person on a benefit knew they were making a false claim or loan, as they paid the fake dentist practice 25% of the money they got from the taxpayer.

So I asked how many people were involved in this fraud scam, and it totaled 280 people. That’s a shocking number – and they are lucky all they’ve had to do was repay the loan or grant.

A useful change

February 21st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Shane Cowlishaw at Stuff reports:

Concerns have been raised about the plans to investigate people without their knowledge as the Government introduces measures to prosecute the partners of benefit fraudsters.

Announcing the changes yesterday, Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows said a new offence would be created to allow the partner or spouse of a person wrongly collecting a benefit to be charged.

It would mean partners could face a fine of up to $5000 or 12 months in jail, as well as their share of the repayments.

Last year more than $20 million was lost because of relationship fraud, making up one-third of welfare fraud cases. …

Beneficiary Advocacy Federation spokeswoman Kay Brereton said she was supportive of the move to target partners.

Currently the majority of people being punished for relationship fraud were women, who were often pressured into the crime. While there would be situations where a partner was not aware of the fraud, this would be the minority, she said.

“I’d love to think that this would discourage men, and I know I’m being very sexist but what we see is mostly men, to discourage them from pressuring their partner into doing this.”

I agree that in the majority of cases it is a joint decision to commit benefit fraud, so the ability to prosecute both is a useful change.

The double standard

January 13th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Benefit fraudster Eileen Farquer is embarrassed that, at 83, she’s become a hero to all the wrong kinds of people.

“You’d be amazed at the people who show up here,” Farquer says, standing in the living area of her tiny rented bach in the Bay of Plenty seaside settlement of Little Waihi, where she is imprisoned on home detention.

“To some people, I’m a hero – ‘you ripped off the Government, wow’. This is what’s so bad, everybody feels it’s OK to rip off the Government. If I’d ripped off a little old lady, I’d be stoned to death. But the Government? ‘They’ve got plenty of money.’ “

While I condemn Farquer’s offending, it is good to see that she fully recognises it was wrong, and is pointing out the abhorrent attitude some people have that it is okay to steal from the Government.

Using the name Lee J Strauss, she gained an unemployment benefit in 1987, and continued to receive benefits in that name until June last year. She collected $215,000, which she is paying back at $10.50 a week.

Under the welfare reforms, I would hope this could now never happen – someone spending 25 years on an unemployment benefit.

Backlash on welfare

August 10th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged earlier this week on David Shearer using the example of a guy on a sickness benefit painting his roof, and how it wasn’t fair, and how Shearer won’t tolerate people who don’t pull their weight. I commented:

Almost sounds like a speech from a National MP. How often do Labour MPs talk about welfare fraud?

A few of the left blogs have complained about it, saying how does Shearer  know that the sickness beneficiary didn’t have a mental health problem. I think they missed this part:

Last year before the election, I was chatting to a guy in my electorate who had just got home from work. In the middle of the conversation, he stopped and pointed across the road to his neighbour.

He said: “see that guy over there, he’s on a sickness benefit, yet he’s up there painting the roof of his house. That’s not bloody fair. Do you guys support him?”

I think we can assume that the neighbour knew enough about the situation to know he was being a bludger. He wouldn’t know the guy was on a sickness benefit, unless he had been told by the beneficiary – and presumably why he was on it.  So I think people are unfairly attacking Shearer for making a valid point.

But one comment was notable, based on who it was from on Shearer’s Facebook page:

Joan Caulfield Unhappy you chose to take a cheap shot at a sickness beneficiary. 

Do you know what his illness is? Maybe he has a mental illness and cannot hold down a job. Passing the test set by Work and Income is very difficult and requires a medical certificate. Sickness beneficiaries I know live in poverty and need support from families to survive. 

I expect a comment like that to come from the Nats.

Joan Caulfield is the former electorate agent for Mt Albert, when Helen Clark was the MP. To have a staff for the former leader and MP severely criticise the current leader and current MP for Mt Albert is a very rare thing.

Shearer on welfare

August 8th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

David Shearer in a speech to Grey Power said:

Last year before the election, I was chatting to a guy in my electorate who had just got home from work. In the middle of the conversation, he stopped and pointed across the road to his neighbour.

He said: “see that guy over there, he’s on a sickness benefit, yet he’s up there painting the roof of his house. That’s not bloody fair. Do you guys support him?”

From what he told me, he was right, it wasn’t bloody fair, and I said so. I have little tolerance for people who don’t pull their weight.

Almost sounds like a speech from a National MP. How often do Labour MPs talk about welfare fraud?

The irony is that Labour has opposed almost all the changes by the Government to tighten up on benefit fraud, such as more stringent work testing!