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Northern Ireland National Insurance Fund Account

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.

“I welcome the progress being made by the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency in reducing levels of fraud and error. The Agency has again reiterated to me its commitment to tackling fraud and error in the benefits system and I look forward to seeing further sustained improvements in future years.”

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office

Notes for Editors

  1. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  2. The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Amyas Morse, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO, which employs some 860 staff. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy. Our studies evaluate the value for money of public spending, nationally and locally. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to audited savings of almost £1.2 billion in 2012.

PN: 79/13