Northern Ireland

Audit Office says benefits fraud and error costs £72m

Benefit overpayments due to fraud and error in Northern Ireland rose to £72m in 2013, according to figures contained in an Audit Office report.

The 2013 total is an increase of £3m on the previous year and relates to payments like housing benefit and employment and support allowance.

The figure, an estimate based on sampling, "compares favourably" to the rest of the UK, the report said.

The overpayments are 1% of the entire benefits bill for Northern Ireland.

The Audit Office said means-tested benefits "tend to have the highest rates of fraud".

The report said among the most common examples were people claiming unemployment benefit but who were, in fact, working.

However, an estimated £29m of overpayments were due to official error, something the Audit Office described as "disappointing".

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