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Enhanced welfare fraud investigation



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MEDIA RELEASE

Hon Warren Truss MP Minister for Community Services

7 December, 1998

ENHANCED WELFARE FRAUD INVESTIGATION

The Federal Government will contract private firms to provide specialist investigative services in suspected serious cases of welfare fraud, Minister for Community Services. Warren Truss, said today

Mr Truss said tenders have been called following a successful three month pilot run by Centrelink where private surveillance companies were used to uncover serious examples of welfare fraud.

"This initiative will help catch serious offenders and also puts out a message that may make others think twice before doing the same,1 ' Mr Truss said.

The pilot ran from December 1997 to March 1998 in inner Sydney and the Gold Coast, and used optical surveillance in cases where traditional investigation methods had found no conclusive evidence of fraud but a strong suspicion remained.

The type of cases investigated included:

• people being paid cash in hand for work and not declaring it to Centrelink, • people on a Disability Support Pension who were not as incapacitated as they claimed, and • people fraudulently making dual claims.

The Minister said that in the trial period, 53 cases were investigated (28 in Sydney and 25 in the Gold Coast) As a result, 33 people had their payments cancelled or reduced.

"This has saved taxpayers $364,500 in future outlays, as well as identifying $440,000 of debts to be recovered from these cases. These savings will continue with the extension of this enhanced surveillance initiative," Mr Truss said.

"I want to stress that control of the investigations and decision making under the initiative will stay with Centrelink.

"I also want to stress that Centrelink is working closely with the Privacy Commissioner s Office to safeguard customer privacy in these investigations."

Calls for tender for the Enhanced Investigation Initiative were advertised in national press on Saturday 5 December.

ENDS

Contact: R t f MR

Andrew Hall Media Adviser - 02 6277 7240 0419 996 766 Email: MdrewhaJlY7dfcs.gov .m Web site; http://www dfcs.gov.au