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Computer-Endorsed Benefit Fraud

Computer-Endorsed Benefit Fraud

The fact that the Work and Income Service's computer system cannot tell whether or not a benefit debt is the result of fraud makes Government claims of effective fraud prevention implausible, ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"Answers to my parliamentary questions show that benefit debt is held on two computers. The Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment Rick Barker admits that `as debt cycles between these two systems the codes identifying the debt as benefit fraud are lost, consequently any subsequent recovery cannot be identified as a benefit fraud debt recovery'," Dr Newman said.

"Maintaining a system that does not identify benefit fraud recovery is ludicrous, especially for a Government that claims to be trying to prevent benefit fraud. It simply provides the Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey with a back door when called upon to prove his claims of increased benefit fraud prevention.

"The continued use of this computer system is simply one link in a chain of decisions made by a Government that has gone soft on fraud. The wooing of the Beneficiaries Unions, the new wiping of debt provisions, making the DPB more accessible and shackling the Benefit Control Unit were all decisions made by a Minister who clearly has no intention of stamping out benefit fraud. Benefit fraud undermines the integrity of the entire benefit system. What we need is a zero tolerance approach to benefit fraud so that those cheating the system know that chance of being caught and prosecuted are high.

"Condoning the use of such a computer system is the move of a Minister who wishes to escape accountability for the recovery of established benefit fraud debt at a time when accountability is paramount. Modification of this system should be made an urgent priority for this Government, so that taxpayers can see that benefit fraud debt is being recovered at an effective level," said Dr Newman.

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