20 Gardaí begin work in Special Investigation Unit of the Department of Social Protection


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Tuesday, 9th December 2014: This week sees the arrival of 20 Gardaí into the Department of Social Protection as they begin work in its Special Investigation Unit, the unit that specialises in fraud investigation. To date this year the unit has generated fraud and control savings of €64.5 million of which €23 million are recoverable overpayments.

The secondment of 20 Gardaí to the Department has been agreed by the Tánaiste and Minister of Social Protection, Joan Burton, T.D., the Minister for Justice and Equality and by the Garda Commissioner. This pilot scheme has also been approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The locations for secondment are Dublin (8 Gardaí), Dundalk (2 Gardaí), Letterkenny (1 Garda), Monaghan (1 Garda), Longford (2 Gardaí), Galway (1 Garda), Cork (2 Gardaí), Limerick (1 Garda), Navan (1 Garda) and Sligo (1 Garda).

The primary function of the Gardaí assigned to the Special Investigation Unit will be to investigate allegations and initiate investigations into social welfare fraud.

The secondment of the 20 Gardaí is for a period of twelve months, subject to review. They will undertake a range of investigative duties in detecting and combating social welfare fraud. They have been appointed with powers under the Social Welfare Acts which permit them to work with officers from the Department’s Special Investigation Unit.

The Gardaí will work closely with other compliance and fraud investigation agencies to ensure that social welfare abuse is comprehensively deterred and detected. This interagency activity is a key element to assist in fraud investigation and the shadow/hidden economy will be a key priority for joint investigations. They will be involved in preparing and collating suitable evidence to enable a deciding officer to review an entitlement to social welfare payment and to use, in certain circumstances, in legal proceedings.

In serious cases of identity fraud or multiple claiming of allowances the Gardaí assigned to the Department will be actively engaged in the detection and prosecution of these. They may also assist the Department of Social Protection in its investigations at ports and airports.

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton said: "The Department’s objective is to ensure that it pays the right amount of money to the right person at the right time, and the vast majority of welfare customers receive only the payment to which they are entitled. I have always championed the welfare system as a safety net for those who need it most. It's precisely because the State's limited resources should go to those most in need that I make no apologies for tackling fraud and abuse in the system.

"The Special Investigation Unit of the Department is achieving excellent results in its detection of fraud and abuse. The addition of the 20 Gardaí will be an extra pillar to the team in uncovering sophisticated fraud, and will help us meet our targets as set out in the Department's Compliance and Anti-Fraud Strategy 2014-2018."

Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan said: "This initiative will help combat social welfare fraud, and highlights the skills, knowledge and experience Gardaí bring to tackling such issues. It also demonstrates how An Garda Síochána works in close co-operation with other State agencies for the benefit of the country and its people."

ENDS

Last modified:09/12/2014