The Australian Government today announced the establishment of Taskforce Integrity, a Department of Human Services (DHS) led initiative to target welfare fraud.
Taskforce Integrity forms part of the Government's Strengthening the Integrity of Welfare Payments 2015-16 Budget measure and will play a key role in delivering $1.7 billion worth of savings derived from the targeting of welfare fraudsters.
Minister for Human Services, Stuart Robert, today confirmed Taskforce Integrity would be supported by Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Ray Johnson, who has been seconded into DHS, and that the pilot phase of operations had already yielded impressive results.
"Assistant Commissioner Johnson has a distinguished record investigating organised crime and serious fraud. His strategic experience and operational expertise will be invaluable in ensuring the success of Taskforce Integrity," Mr Robert said.
"The pilot phase of DHS' Taskforce Integrity commenced in August 2015 in the Rockdale area of southern Sydney and has already successfully detected, disrupted and prevented non-compliance and fraud activity."
To date pilot operations have resulted in 1,107 compliance reviews and identified 790 individual cases of overpayments. The Taskforce has also identified 36 cases for further investigation of suspected fraud and/or other criminal activities and raised over $2.2 million of debt to the Commonwealth.
The Taskforce is now in the early phases of concurrent operations in a number of other locations and has already initiated 2,786 compliance reviews and identified 590 individual cases of overpayment. Additionally, 14 cases have been identified for further investigation and $1.1 million of debt has also been identified.
"While most people receiving welfare payments are honest and do the right thing, there are a small number of people who still think it is okay to cheat the system and take more than they are entitled to," Mr Robert said.
"What these individuals don't appreciate is they are actually stealing from their neighbours. They are taking money set aside for those Australians who genuinely need a helping hand.
"Taking welfare payments dishonestly is theft, and the consequences are serious. Those individuals who deliberately defraud the system will be targeted and will be caught."
Taskforce Integrity will target geographic areas where data analysis points to a higher-risk of non-compliance and suspected welfare fraud. It is funded to operate nationally until mid-2019.