Friday, June 18, 2021

Benefit fraud prosecutions heading for zero


Graphed data from a published  OIA response.

The sharp reduction is apparently due to "an increased focus on prevention and early detection."

"...the Ministry is conscious that prosecution can negatively impact clients and families who are already in a vulnerable and difficult situation."

By way of contrast, in the 2011/12 MSD Annual Report, under a different government, this statement was emphasised:

Where we find evidence of fraud, we prosecute.

Going back even further, just to emphasise yet again how different this Labour government is to that of Helen Clark's, here's a statement from the house:

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : This Government wants to make sure that everyone who is entitled to support gets it. Benefit abuse and fraud are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. All cases of deliberate fraud are prosecuted. It is a disappointing fact that some people attempt to defraud our system. Where debts are incurred they will be recovered. Currently, 96 percent of debtors on a benefit are repaying their debt. Prosecution rates in October, as I mentioned earlier, were 97 percent successful, with 12 sentences of imprisonment.

During the financial year 2007/08 there were 1,028 fraud prosecutions.

I'm a skeptic. Policy and practice may change but human nature doesn't.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

No better time to be a beneficiary

There are now so many Work and Income rules that have either been repealed, ignored or broken since 2017 that it's worth making a list:

1/ The penalty for not naming the father of a child dependent on a sole parent benefit was abolished. Taxpayer now picks up the liable parent contribution.

2/ The requirement to ensure a child on a benefit is attending early childhood education/ school and enroled with a GP is ignored.

3/ Sanctions for not meeting appointment and work obligations have declined significantly:

4/ The requirement to present a medical certificate is suspended till at least 2022.

5/  Beneficiaries can use payment cards to buy cigarettes, lotto tickets and giftcards at BP.

6/  Fraud is not being prosecuted. Fraud staff have been moved to chasing up wage subsidy repayments, and changes to privacy settings have prevented investigations without disclosure to parties being investigated.

7/ No stand-downs imposed till July 2021.

And to be repealed by law passing through parliament currently:

8/ Early work-testing of a sole parent who adds a subsequent child to their benefit. Green light to continue having children on welfare with no consequence except extra cash.

What with the increases to basic benefit rates,  increased abatement thresholds, indexing benefits to wages as well as CPI, the winter energy payment, Best Start and the loosening of so many obligations, there's never been a better time to be a beneficiary in New Zealand.