Mortality data screening finds pensions still being paid years after death

More than 80 public sector bodies took part in sophisticated, computer-based data matching to trace fraud and overpayment. Picture by Joe Giddens/PA Wire

DETAILS of £1.9 million taxpayer money recovered, after being lost through fraud and administrative error, have been revealed by the Audit Office.

More than 80 public sector bodies took part in sophisticated, computer-based data matching to trace fraud and overpayment between April 2016 and March 2018.

The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) examines payrolls to check if an employee working elsewhere while on sick leave or if someone claiming housing benefit is not declaring income which would affect their payments.

It also compares pensions to death records to find instances where a pensioner has died but a benefit is still being paid out.

Blue badges are also listed against death records for instances where they are still being used after the holder has died.

Details of private-supported care home residents are also compared with death records to find instances where health trusts continued

to pay for places where residents had died.

In one case, a trust continued to pay £100 a week nursing fees for three years after a patient had died.

The same home also failed to pass on the "change of circumstance" for another resident until it was picked up a year and a half after the person's death.

These cases resulted in overpayment of £24,000 - all of which has been recovered.

Another home did not notify its trust that a resident had died in December 2014 until "early 2017", leading to overpayments of £11,229.

While, the trust "has recovered the full amount", it is "reviewing contract management arrangements".

Almost £814,000 was recovered from rates evasion.

The data matching identified a property which was marked as vacant on Land and Property Service's rating system, but it was discovered that someone had registered to vote at that address.

The outstanding rates dated back to 2011, amounting to almost £16,200. The Audit Office said "recovery of the outstanding amount is in progress".

Pensions fraud, error and overpayments amounted to almost £648,000.

So-called mortality screening identified a pensioner who died in July 2015 but not reported to the pension administrator, leading to overpayment of £7,935.

A weekly repayment plan has been agreed with next of kin.

A similar case, where the pensioner died in February 2015 saw £8,506 overpayment.

Meanwhile, around £137,000 housing benefit fraud and overpayments was recovered through the analysis.

A data match revealed an undeclared partner or other non-dependent person living at the same address as a benefit claimant, which following investigation was discovered to have resulted in overpayment of benefits - including for housing - over 11 years, totalling £102,000.

The person was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for two years in August 2017.

Another analysis revealed someone on the payroll of a public sector organisation while claiming benefits, including housing benefit, with overpayment of £23,000 over two years.

They were handed an 18-month suspended sentence.

Meanwhile, one health sector organisation detected four duplicate payments totalling £20,302.

Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General, said: "Preventing and detecting fraud is an essential part of public business, to help ensure that limited funds for the provision of goods and services are properly directed to where they are needed and not siphoned off by fraudsters.

"Fraud is not a victimless crime; we all pay the price."

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