Crooked officials, welfare fraud cost Australia

SYDNEY: Australia is losing almost Aus$600 million a year to social security fraud and crooked public servants, a report showed Monday as the government announced new measures to tackle the menace.More than 800,000 incidents of fraud were recorded in 2008-09, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology’s “Fraud against the Commonwealth”.Young people ripping off the dole and single mothers on parent payments were the biggest and costliest groups of fraudsters, with 700,000 cases reported in the 2008-09 audit costing Aus$489 million ($508 million).The report also pointed to more than 15,000 cases of welfare fraud involving international students and other foreigners illegally claiming visas and citizenship entitlements.Investigations also found hundreds of public servants misusing credit cards, stealing equipment and passing on confidential information.

Just $139 million — or 23 percent — of the stolen money was recovered.Justice Minister Brendan O’Connor said the government was determined to crack down on the theft.”Fraud is a really low act. There are vulnerable people who genuinely need our help, and fraudsters play on our nation?s generosity for their own criminal purposes,” he said in a statement.”Fraud is completely unacceptable and that?s why we?re doing all we can to stop it.”We’re determined to fight fraud against the Commonwealth by minimising chances for it to occur, and rapidly detecting, investigating and prosecuting fraudsters.”O’Connor said the government had increased the number of fraud investigators by one third, with 827 more workers now employed, while tighter prevention guidelines had also been introduced.”The threat of fraud is becoming more complex as we strive to deliver government services online and increasingly rely on digital records to deliver more personalised services,” he added.”Technology is making life easier for tens of thousands of Australians and increases the efficiency of government programs. However, it can also create opportunities for cyber criminals, at home and abroad.” – Yahoonews