Clint Chan Tack
ACTION should be taken against 12 people involved in fraudulent practices at the Department of Social Development and Family Services.
This disclosure was made by Social Development and Family Services Minister Donna Cox in her contribution to the debate on the Appropriation Amendment Bill 2022 (Fiscal Year 2022) in the Senate on Friday.
She recalls talking about fraud in her ministry being investigated by the Financial Investigation Bureau, the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau and the Fraud Squad, in her contribution to the budget debate in the House of Representatives last October.
“In fact, in the 12 months prior to my speaking, there had been a 241% increase in the number of reports to the TTPS (TT Police Service), the majority of cases
concerning senior citizens’ pensions.
Cox said investigations were ongoing, and some at a “very sensitive stage”. She added that 12 people will “soon be interviewed by police with a view to arrest and charge specific individuals”.
Cox said phantom payees were identified on the payroll and the names were sent to police for investigation.
Since the names of these people were removed from the department’s payroll, none of them have come forward to ask to be reinstated.
She said continued collaboration with the Fraud Squad “will serve to address the problem of fraudulent check cashing of what may be organized crime.”
Additional measures are taken to ensure that social benefits reach the people for whom they are intended.
Cox said: “The department was able to remove 12,010 retirees from the system.”
Some 7,554 died, but had not been removed before.
About $94 million had been paid to them.
Through a memorandum of understanding with the Immigration Division, she said, the department will withdraw 5,000 people who live overseas but are still receiving an old age pension allowance.
Cox was confident that an allocation of $389,073,000 in the bill will help the department meet its commitments to seniors through the end of the fiscal year.
Independent Senator Dr. Varma Deyalsingh hailed initiatives that would protect seniors from fraudulent activity, saying, “Every dollar taken from seniors is a crime.”
Deyalsingh said he heard of cases where young parents of retirees tried to steal money from them.