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Centrelink fraud crackdown saves taxpayers billions.

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MEDIA RELEASE Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig Minister for Human Services

Monday 15 September 2008

Centrelink fraud crackdown saves taxpayers billions

The Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig, has today released the results of Centrelink’s anti-fraud program, revealing savings of more than $107 million dollars a fortnight in the 2007-08 financial year.

“The Rudd Labor Government is committed to giving a helping hand to those people in the community who need it,” Senator Ludwig said.

“But we will always be vigilant and stop people ripping off the welfare system.”

“It's clear the vast majority of Centrelink customers are honest and entitled to their payments.”

“However the Rudd Government will not tolerate people who undermine Australia’s welfare system - it’s there for those in genuine need and not for those who just want to help themselves.”

During the 2007-08 financial year, Centrelink completed 4.4 million reviews of eligibility and entitlement.

This review activity resulted in savings to future outlays totalling $107.2 million a fortnight with 702,624 payment corrections.

Centrelink conducted 9,816 individual cash economy investigations during 2007-08 that included 190 cash economy operations. This activity resulted in $26.8 million in savings and debts.

43,098 Data-Match Program reviews were undertaken during 2007-08, resulting in $105.9 million in savings and debts.

From public tip-offs received in 2007-08, Centrelink conducted 60,257 reviews of customer entitlement. This review activity resulted in 12,311 reduced payments and identified $148.7 million in savings and debts.

In 2007-08, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions prosecuted 2,658 Centrelink cases for fraud with a success rate of 98.7 per cent.

“Prosecutions send a clear message to the community that the system is fair and it will pursue those people who try to take advantage of it,” Senator Ludwig said.

“These figures clearly demonstrate to potential welfare cheats that they will be caught and will face serious consequences for their actions.”

“This work received a huge boost in the 2008 Budget with an additional $138 million provided to Centrelink to detect and investigate suspicious claims.”

“These efforts are expected to produce savings of $728 million over the next four years. That’s a net dividend of almost $600 million in four years.”

Senator Ludwig said the Budget announcement will mean that Centrelink can carry out extra reviews when it detects discrepancies through data-matching with the Australian Taxation Office.

“This will also mean that the Government can build on a data-exchange pilot between Centrelink and the Commonwealth Bank,” he said.

“These initiatives demonstrate that the Government is serious about making sure the system operates fairly.”

“Centrelink’s success in detecting welfare fraud should send a clear message to people who are considering ripping off the system: you will be caught, you will be brought to justice and you will have to pay back every cent.”

“Community support for the welfare system is vital. Successful compliance activities enhance the community’s belief in the integrity of the system.“

Minister’s Media Contact: Joe Scavo 0413 800757