Costs of benefit fraud to be online
The total costs of benefit fraud to taxpayers will soon be published on the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) website.
The announcement comes after a MSD response to a Timaru Herald Official Information Act request.
According to the OIA response, from June 2010 to June this year, there were 18 prosecutions at the Timaru District Court for overpayments, involving an estimated total of $456,740.
MSD deputy chief executive Iona Holsted said its website would publish the "court by court" numbers of successful prosecutions on its website in the coming weeks.
"It is vital that the public has trust and confidence people receive their correct entitlement and do not take advantage of the welfare system," she said.
"There is substantial public interest in the number of people prosecuted for welfare fraud."
The year ending July 2012 was one of the busiest periods for welfare fraud cases in Timaru, with a total of eight prosecutions for $264,000. This included Clare Bamfield, who was jailed for 18 months after she was found guilty of stealing more than $147,000 over 12 years.
In the last financial year, there were five prosecutions, totalling $71,000, while in 2010-11, there were five for $120,935.
The government administers nearly $18 billion worth of income assistance to over one million New Zealanders per year, which includes student allowances, welfare payments and superannuation. Fraud represents an estimated 0.18 per cent of this spend nationwide - or about $33 million.
Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows said the government had started joint agency investigations with police and other social services to target welfare fraud.
"For the vast majority of beneficiaries, who are honest and follow the rules, the welfare system is there to help them when they are in need," Mr Borrows said.
"Yet those very few who chose to defraud the system place a very real cost on a system which should be there to support our most vulnerable citizens."
In the June 2010 to June 2013 period, there were 114 prosecutions through the Christchurch courts for welfare fraud, involving an estimated total overspend of $2.823m, 20 at the Ashburton District Court ($314,117) and five at the Oamaru District Court ($109,224).
The number of prosecutions at the Christchurch courts increased from 17 (estimated $351,196) in 2011-12 to 44 ($1.223m) in 2012-13, but several court cases were transferred in 2011 due to the Canterbury earthquakes.
- © Fairfax NZ News