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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Pensions 'claimed for the dead'
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MSPs were told there was a lack of clarity about what could be claimed
Some people in Scotland have continued to claim pensions from the deceased, MSPs have been told.

Audit Scotland uncovered the practice during an anti-fraud drive which also revealed 15m worth of scams and errors in the public sector.

The Audit Committee heard the Scottish figures could be proportionately higher than in England and Wales unless an improvement is found in future years.

There were 270 cases of occupational pensions being paid to dead people.

Russell Frith, of Audit Scotland, said: "Certainly in the cases of some of the pensions, there is a lack of clarity in some cases of understanding what you can and can't do as a pensioner.

We believe the exercise has been very successful and we intend to run it again starting in October this year
Russell Frith
Audit Scotland

"There are commonly held beliefs, that are untrue, about being entitled to continue claiming pensions where somebody has died.

"One of the things that could possibly help in future is greater clarity of information to pensioners on what they must do in respect to claiming other benefits or, if they go back to work, when they can and when they cannot continue to claim the full pension."

The 15m figure compared with 96m in England and Wales.

However, Mr Frith said that it was still not clear whether this meant that Scotland had proportionately more of a problem than England and Wales.

He said: "It may well be that in this case we are catching up with a number of longer standing over-payments and frauds that would've been picked up in England and Wales in other exercises.

"We're probably covering a longer period of cases this time. If the next time the results are still higher, then I think it would be a reasonable conclusion."

Cross-checking information

The exercise involved councils cross-checking information about benefit applications, public sector employees, pensioners, students with public sector pension administrators and the Student Awards Agency for Scotland.

The 15m was split between 6m of fraud and error and 9m which would potentially be saved by stopping payments being wrongly made.

There were also a total of 215 cases of housing benefits overpayments to students and 564 cases of housing benefit involving public sector employees or pensioners.

A total of 53 of those cases have led to prosecutions or have been reported to the procurator fiscal.

Mr Frith said: "We believe the exercise has been very successful and we intend to run it again starting in October this year."

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