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Minister Relaxes As Fraud Increases

Minister Relaxes As Fraud Increases

The Labour Government's failure to prosecute 94 percent of beneficiaries investigated for welfare fraud highlights Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey's feeble approach to combating benefit fraud, ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"Figures released in answer to my parliamentary questions show that from 2000-2002 there were 16,276 benefit fraud investigations. Of that number, however, only six percent were referred for prosecution," Dr Newman said.

"Benefit Control Units and data matching found more than 4,500 fraud allegations for each of those years - with many fraudsters gaining more than $100,000 of taxpayers' money. Yet only a fraction of these were prosecuted.

"It is little wonder that benefit fraud in New Zealand is alive and kicking. Under Labour's soft approach to benefit fraud - which has seen the total fraud detected drop by 30 percent and fewer fraudsters being caught and punished - more and more people are taking, what is becoming, the safe risk and ripping off taxpayers.

"Benefit fraud undermines the integrity of the entire benefit system, and must be stamped out. What we need is a zero tolerance approach to benefit fraud, so that those cheating the system know the chances of being caught and prosecuted are high.

"The Minister's tolerance of benefit fraud is costing the country. Social welfare assistance should only be available for those who genuinely need it, not fraudsters who are ripping taxpayers off." Dr Newman said.

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