More than 900 cases of suspected social welfare fraud have been investigated by social welfare officials in Longford since 2016, new figures reveal.
According to statistics provided to the Leader by the Department of Social Protection this week, 904 incidents of alleged fraudulent activity involving Longford-based welfare recipients were reported to its offices between January 2016 and December 2018.
On average, the figures reveal around 25 cases of fraud are being made on a monthly basis.
The data, which was obtained on foot of a Freedom of Information request, the figures stop short of identifying the exact number of frauds that were detected as a result.
By far, the worst year for alleged tip-offs was 2016 when 364 complaints concerning possible bogus claims were received.
That figure dropped to 291 in 2017 with a further 249 cases being passed on to inspectors last year. Longford Municipal District Cathaoirleach Cllr Seamus Butler said while the figures were “concerning”, more research was required.
“It would be interesting to see how comparable these figures were with other counties on a pro rata basis,” said the Fianna Fáil local representative.
“It would seem they (inspectors) are very active but just because a report is made, that doesn't necessarily make it a fraud.”
That said, Cllr Butler admitted there was little excuse for anyone found to be in receipt of social welfare monies they were otherwise unentitled to.
“It is taxpayers money and if there is a fraud, these people are depriving other people and it's also money which we need for the building of our schools and hospitals,” he said.
Nationally, more than 14,800 tip-offs of alleged fraud made to the department last year. Almost 12,000 of these (80%) were received online via the department’s website, 2,358 (16%) by phone with the balance being received by post.
The department said the highest proportion of reports related to persons who were said to be claiming a payment and working at the same time.