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Independent assessment shows Ministry on right track

An independent assessment commissioned by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) into its fraud practices has shown the Ministry is headed in the right direction in its overall approach to fraud.

Consultant Murray Jack was commissioned by MSD to assess fraud policies and practices after the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) recommended improvements around the Ministry’s fraud investigation processes in May.

Key findings

“We are pleased the assessment has confirmed that we are in line with best practice in terms of moving our focus towards prevention and early intervention. It has also identified areas where we can make further improvements,” says Stephen Crombie, Deputy Chief Executive People and Capability.

“We need to balance clients’ privacy rights alongside our responsibility to taxpayers to investigate serious fraud in a timely way and to establish the facts.

“Some of the recommendations will require careful consideration as they may have wider implications. However, we accept the direction and expect to have a work plan in place by the end of the year to put these into action alongside those from the OPC report.”

The recommendations in the assessment include strengthening national oversight of MSD fraud function and refreshing of policies and process to ensure they are best practice.

The assessment highlights a change in fraud policies aimed at making it easier for clients to do the right thing and declare their correct circumstances, and for prosecutions to focus on the most serious cases. As a result the average value of fraud in successful prosecutions has doubled, from $35,138 in 2014 to $69,421 in the 2019 financial year. The number of prosecutions has also declined.

Meanwhile, MSD is continuing with implementation of the programme of work arising out of the recommendations of the OPC report.

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