The Irish government has paid out more than $25million in pensions over the last two years – to dead people.
Reports in Thursday’s Irish Independent have confirmed the 10,000 phantom pension payments. The paper has also unearthed evidence of payments to people who died a decade ago.
The Independent report states that the payments were only discovered when the Department of Social Protection cross-checked its pension payments against the death records held by the General Register Office.
Normally a three month ‘grace’ period for pension payments operates after a person’s death before their next of kin is obliged to inform the department to cancel the pension.
Officials believe that in some of the 10,000 cases, relatives or friends deliberately defrauded the state by continuing to claim the pensions after a death.
One case covered by the Independent concerned a family member who collected over $40,000 on behalf of a dead relative over a two year period.
The department has confirmed overpayments totalling over $40million over the last two years in respect of 9,850 dead pensioners.
Those pension payments can be legally reclaimed by the department and some cases are already in process as the state seeks the return of money paid out.
A spokesman for the Department blamed the lack of accurate information on ‘shortcomings’ in its records amid claims that $9million has already been recovered.
The spokesman also confirmed that the department is now getting immediate notification of deaths from the General Registrar’s Office as soon as a death is registered.
“This will prevent large-scale fraud in the future,” said the spokesman.
The paper also reports that just last year a judge described as ‘amazing’ the ease with which an elderly man had been able to claim a dead friend’s pension for 23 years.
Dubliner Patrick McLoughlin was handed a three-year suspended sentence after defrauding the State of more than $180,000.
The fraud was only discovered when welfare staff prepared to make the ‘presidential centenarian bounty payment’ to the dead man who had died in 1984.
Police arrested McLoughlin in June 2007 after viewing CCTV footage of him collecting the deceased’s pension. McLoughlin has committed to repay the money at the rate of $60 a week.