The Western Trust paid £12,943 to a private home for a dead resident’s nursing care without anyone at the facility notifying the health authority that the person had died.
The £100 weekly payments made by the people of Northern Ireland to the private home only stopped after a National Fraud Initiative (NFI) data trawl uncovered the resident had died in June 2013.
This is one of the findings of a new report into the effectiveness of the NFI, a major data matching exercise undertaken every two years, which has been newly published by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO).
According to the report the Western Trust would still be oblivious to the overpayments if it wasn’t for the NFI.
“The client was a private placement and the Trust paid £100 per week to the home for the client’s nursing care, in line with statutory regulations. Contrary to the terms of the contract in place, the home failed to identify on its monthly remittances that the client had died. “The resulting overpayment by the Trust was £12,943. The Trust has recovered the full amount,” the report states.
Elsewhere, 33 dead Northern Irish people were still being paid public pensions until the anti-fraud trawl discovered the anomalies, which contributed to a pensions overpayments bill of £1.4million over the past two years.
In one case, involving the local council workers’ pensions body, the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC), a pensioner died in February 2014.
“The pension administrator was not notified and only became aware of the death through an NFI data match. Payments totalling £2,226 had been made by cheque after the date of death.
“The cheques had not been cashed so when the overpayment was identified, the value of the cheques was reinstated,” the report says.
In another case involving civil service pensions an NFI data match in January 2015 showed the date of death of a pensioner as August 2014.
“Overpayment of pension amounted to almost £3,500. The pension paying body wrote to the family and eventually received confirmation from the pensioner’s son, who was the executor of the pensioner’s will, that the amount would be repaid in full when the estate was finalised.
“The full amount has now been repaid,” the report says.
The Auditor General Kieran Donnelly said: “Fraud impacts on the level of funding available for front line services, so fighting fraud must remain a key element in ensuring that limited public funds for the provision of goods and services are maximised.
“Fraud affects us all and we all pay the price.
“NFI outcomes in Northern Ireland now stand at almost £33m, representing current and past fraud stopped and potential future fraud averted.
“I wish to publicly than all those involved in the review and investigation of data matches for the essential work that they do.”
Between April 2014 and March 2016 over £3.1m of fraud and error was detected through NFI data matching.
Amongst the report’s other findings were that housing benefit fraud and overpayments amounted to over £1.2m, with a number of successful prosecutions; over 60 cases of rates evasion were identified leading to outcomes of over £330,000; duplicate and erroneous payments to suppliers amounted to over £31,000.
There were also over 4,000 matches between blue badge holder records and death records, usually meaning the badges were not returned after a person’s death opening the way for fraudulent use.
There were also almost 2,500 matches between free bus cards and death records.