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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Benefit fraud team 'ineffective'
Calculator and coins
Benefit fraud is costing the government 30m annually
Benefit fraud investigators in NI have been criticised for failing to effectively tackle the problem.

It costs the government more than 30m a year with millions more spent trying to stop it.

A report by the independent Criminal Justice Inspection highlights faults in investigations carried out by the Benefit Investigation Service.

The report said only one in 10 cases of suspected fraud leads to some form of punishment.


It said investigators could "make better use of available resources, information and intelligence".

The report said it was important that "sanctions are sufficient to act as a deterrent to others" and calls for greater cooperation with the Public Prosecution Service.

It also points out failures in communication, or "managerial disjunction" within the Social Security Agency.

Kit Chivers
Kit Chivers said the investigation team needed to be better integrated

The report said that while there had been some improvements in recent years, and investigators had made good use of recent legislation, there "was still scope for an improved joined-up approach to combat fraud".

Kit Chivers, the chief inspector of criminal justice, said while other social security staff were aware of the Benefit Investigation Service they often viewed it as a separate arm of the organisation.

"Providing BIS with valuable information to help identify suspected fraudulent activity tended to be given a lower priority than other work," Mr Chivers said.

"The inspection report has recommended that greater efforts be made to better integrate BIS within the social security agency."

The report makes 17 recommendations all of which the Social Security Agency has adopted.

John Nevin of the SSA said that they welcomed the report and would act on it.

"We see it as acknowledging the good work we have done," he said.

"It has identified some areas where we could do better and we will work, hopefully with the Criminal Justice Inspectorate and staff, to take up those recommendations and improve the areas where he has said we can improve, without losing the excellence we already have in other areas."

Benefit frauds 'cheat NI public'
21 Mar 05 |  Northern Ireland
NI benefit fraud costs 120m
25 Jun 04 |  Northern Ireland

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