PracticeAuditFraud and errors blight Northern Irish welfare system

Fraud and errors blight Northern Irish welfare system

Significant levels of estimated fraud and error in security benefits force auditor general to qualify accounts of Northern Ireland Social Development Department

The accounts of the Northern Ireland Social Development Department have been
qualified as a result of estimated fraud and error in benefit payments totalling
£151m.

Continuing weaknesses in the control and monitoring of expenditure on urban
regeneration and community development, were also a factor in the qualification.

Comptroller and auditor general John Dowdall said he had been ‘unable to
carry out auditing procedures to obtain adequate assurance on the amounts and
disclosures included in financial statements in respect of these issues’.

He said there were ‘significant levels of estimated fraud and error in
certain security benefits’ amounting to 4% of annual expenditure, marginally up
on 3.9% the previous year.

But he said improvements had enabled him to lift a qualification imposed in
earlier years due to a departmental failure to provide a sufficient audit trail
to test balances.

Further improvements had been made, but monitoring of grants to voluntary and
community bodies was ‘still not satisfactory’, he said, and he was ‘concerned
that the level of fraud and error remains high’.

Dowdall said the qualification on urban development and community development
grants was for the sixth year running.

He was particularly concerned ‘that the majority of the weaknesses found

during my testing were due to non-adherence to the department’s own procedures’.

Further reading:

NAO qualifies Department for Work
& Pensions’ accounts

Auditors give EU accounts their 12th
qualification

Brussels defends spending
methods

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