Amyas Morse, Comptroller and Auditor General, has qualified his audit opinion on the Northern Ireland National Insurance Fund owing to the levels of fraud and error in benefit payments. His report recognizes, though, the improvements that have been made. This is the third year in a row in which rates of fraud and error have declined.
The Northern Ireland Social Security Agency, which is responsible for administering benefits paid to customers out of the Fund, has estimated that the value of incorrect contributory benefit payments due to fraud and error was £21.1 million, some 0.91 per cent of benefit payments (2011-12: £22.2 million, 1.01 per cent).
According to the NAO, during 2012-13, the reduction of benefit fraud and error remained one of the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency’s key business priorities. The Agency’s strategy to tackle this includes staff training to improve knowledge, as well as risk-based targeting to identify and correct error.
The Northern Ireland Social Security Agency believes that, as a result of the cumulative impact of their actions over time, they are now seeing sustained reductions in fraud and error levels. However, because of the statistical uncertainty inherent in the process of estimating the value of over and underpayments, the NAO was unable to determine how much of the reported reductions in fraud and error are due to a change in rates of fraud and error over time and how much are due to normal statistical variations in the estimates produced by the Agency. The Agency’s best estimate of error and fraud does, however, suggest a further decline in 2012-13.