Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“Recently I asked the Minister for Social Development by way of a written question how many people currently owe the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in excess of £30,000 as a result of housing benefit fraud and, in terms of repayment arrangements, how many have arrangements likely to extend beyond their natural life expectancy.
“I am informed that there are currently 29 Housing Benefit overpayment fraud cases in excess of £30,000 and was amazed to be informed that in 15 of these cases the repayment arrangements ranges from 26 years to 200 years!
“For the NIHE to be entering arrangements with fraudsters which gives them 200 years to repay their debts, at a derisory figure per year, amounts to them operating a fraudster’s charter, which brings the authorities into disrepute.
“A fundamental question which arises is how were such debts/frauds of such magnitude run up in the first place, without detection. Proper scrutiny and accounting systems should detect such matters at a much earlier stage. Then deductions from benefits during the lifetime of the perpetrators would recompense the state, but recovery notionally extending beyond the grave is farcical.”
Note to editors:
Mr Allister’s question and the reply received were as follows:
To ask the Minister for Social Development how many people currently owe the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in excess of £30,000 as a result of housing benefit fraud; and, in terms of repayment arrangements, how many have arrangements likely to extend beyond their natural life expectancy.
The information is not available in the format requested because it is not possible to calculate the natural life expectancy for the individuals involved.
The Housing Executive has advised that there are currently 29 Housing Benefit overpayment fraud cases in excess of £30,000. They confirm that repayment arrangements for 15 cases are in place, and ranges from 26 years to 200 years.
It should be noted that where the overpayment relates to a case with an an ongoing entitlement to Housing Benefit, the Housing Executive recovers the maximum allowable amount under legislation unless the debtor can prove financial hardship, in which case a lower recovery figure may be accepted. In other cases where there is no ongoing Housing Benefit entitlement, an individual repayment arrangement is made following a review of the debtor’s financial circumstances.
The remaining 14 cases which do not have repayment arrangements are either being appealed by the claimant, awaiting a hearing with the Enforcement of Judgement Office, awaiting Benefit deductions, with Private Sector Recovery Agents or have other investigative action ongoing.