Dáil Éireann - Volume 508 - 06 October, 1999
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Fraud.
Mr. M. Higgins Mr. M. Higgins
69. Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the posi tion regarding social welfare fraud road checkpoints under section 26 of the Social Welfare Act, 1999, in view of the apparent reluctance of gardaí to be involved in these checkpoints and the ongoing lack of workplace inspections. [18892/99]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): My Department has in place a wide-ranging programme of measures designed to tackle abuses of the social welfare system. The programme involves a range of activities including claim reviews, employer visitation for the purpose of inspecting PRSI records, data matching and other computer trawling exercises, liaison and transfer of information with other agencies in accordance with the law and special intensive team review activities on a local basis.
In early 1998 my Department accepted an invitation from the gardaí to participate in multi-agency checkpoints. This has involved staff from my Department participating in checkpoints along with the gardaí and officials of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Initially involvement in the checkpoints was on a pilot basis. They proved to be an effective anti-abuse measure and it was considered that they should continue and complement other control activities. A provision was included in this year's Social Welfare Act in order to copperfasten the legal basis for these operations.
I note recent speculation in the media as to the future of these multi-agency checkpoints. The gardaí in high level contact with my Department officials have since confirmed that no decision has been taken by them to cease these checkpoints. I expect that they will continue to be operated as before.
It is not correct to state that there is a lack of workplace inspections by my Department. There were 1,487 employer inspections in September bringing the total for the year to date up to 4,666. Involvement of social welfare inspectors in the implementation of the farm assist scheme meant that in some areas the number of employer inspections had to be curtailed during the summer months. The significant increase in employer inspection numbers during September is part of a renewed emphasis on this aspect of control activity.
Dáil Éireann 508 Written Answers. Social Welfare Fraud.