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Maharey Dismisses Newman's Benefit Fraud Claims

1 May 2001

New rules instituted within the Department of Work and Income (DWI) ensure that the benefit fraud is being properly detected and recovered, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said today.

Mr Maharey dimissed claims by Act MP Muriel Newman that the Government had gone soft on benefit fraud. In fact the opposite is the case, Mr Maharey said.

"Prior to the last election there was considerable public disquiet about the way DWI categorised and recovered benefit debt.

"Beneficiaries were being classified and treated as criminals when they, through no fault of their own, were overpaid by the Department. It was impossible to identify how much of the funds recorded as 'fraud' had been obtained unlawfully.

"Even professional groups like the New Zealand Statistical Association took the unusual step of calling for DWI to alter the way it recorded information.

"The Government acted quickly to institute a fair system. New guidelines were issued to staff in May 2000 and these were revised further in April 2001.

"Let me be very clear: the Government treats the issue of benefit fraud very seriously. Now that we can be sure exactly what is benefit fraud, and what is not, beneficiaries getting money they are not entitled to can expect DWI to take all reasonable steps to recover those funds," Steve Maharey said.


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