Republic’s Social Protection budget leeching €100 million pa…

Interesting editorial in today’s Irish Times on the inefficiencies in government spending… The biggest culprits? Social Protection and Education. Hardly surprising. But still at a time when the exchequer has long since gone dry, the Times calls for a toughening on the rules:

The Department of Social Protection made welfare benefit overpayments of almost €100 million – nearly double the 2007 figure. In all 63,310 claimants were overpaid. Fraud accounted for one-third of these excess payments, and human error – by those applying for benefits – for almost half. Of the remainder, 12 per cent involved overpayments to those no longer alive and 6 per cent were described as errors by the department.

The department’s failure to prevent these irregularities was compounded by its inability either to recover money from those who had fraudulently obtained €35 million – or indeed to prosecute the offenders. The CAG’s report notes that the recovery rate of fraud-related debt is unknown, while fewer than 3 per cent of fraud cases are referred for prosecution.

This is not about cutting benefits. But adopting best practice from the tax raising end of government, the Revenue Commissioners:

Last year Revenue collected €34 billion in taxes, thanks to high levels of compliance by taxpayers, and its willingness to use tough enforcement procedures. One department of state – it would seem – can ignore high levels of fraud, fail to recover most of the money owing, and also fail to prosecute welfare fraudsters.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty