Dáil Éireann - Volume 450 - 08 March, 1995
Written Answers. - Overpayment of Pension.
Mr. Creed Mr. Creed
142. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Social Welfare, in view of the Statute of Limitations, if his Department can claim back six years alleged overpayment of pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5161/95]
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa) Proinsias De Rossa
Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): The principal legal provision governing overpayments of pensions and other social welfare benefits  are to be found in sections 248 to 250 and Part VIII of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1993. These lay down strict statutory criteria for the creation of social welfare overpayments and for the recovery of the amounts which have been overpaid. Section 280 deals specifically with the situation arising on the distribution of assets of a deceased pensioner of the Department.
The Statute of Limitations does not remove or limit the overpayment or the Department's obligation to claim its recovery in full. The question as to whether the recovery or debt for overpayment, in whole or in part, may be statute barred depends on the circumstances of the case having regard to equity and any mitigating circumstances which may exist. The period of limitation in the statute does not in any event begin to run in cases involving fraud or fraudulent concealment until the fraud has been discovered.
The factors relating to the striking of an overpayment and its recovery vary depending on the nature and circumstances of the case. The practice of the Department has been to fulfil its obligation to seek recovery of overpayments due but to take a sympathetic attitude towards recovery of amounts overpaid particularly where the overpayment arose through no fault of the person concerned.
The 1993 Social Welfare Act at section 282 provided for the first time for the drawing up of a code of practice under which legally due overpayments may in certain circumstances be deferred, suspended, reduced or cancelled. The drawing up of the code is at an advanced stage at present and it is hoped to make the necessary regulations introducing the code in the near future. The draft regulations will, in the normal course, be examined from a legal point of view and the question of the interaction with the Statute of Limitations will be considered in this context.
Dáil Éireann 450 Written Answers. Overpayment of Pension.