Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, has today qualified his opinion on the Department for Work and Pensions accounts for the eighteenth consecutive year. This is because an estimated £2.5 billion has been lost to fraud and error in benefit payments, and because of uncertainties over the debts created by customers being overpaid.
Across the benefit schemes operated by DWP a total of £690 million was lost to fraud, £1,010 million to customer error, and £850 million to official error. The sum represents 2.1% of benefit expenditure. The estimated loss is down from £2.7 billion (2.3%) in the previous year.
In his report Sir John Bourn notes that the past year has seen further real progress towards removing or tackling these long-standing qualifications of the Department’s accounts. In particular, Sir John acknowledges that the Department has made real progress in introducing new systems and procedures that both reduce fraud and error and properly value and record identified debts.