Flood compo cheats could face jail
MINISTER for Human Services Tanya Plibersek has announced that Centrelink had set up a dedicated task force to investigate fraudulent flood claims as part of a crackdown on suspected disaster payment cheats.
Ms Plibersek said claims for financial assistance arising out of the floods crisis were being examined by the task force, and people attempting to rort the system would be caught.
“We know the vast majority of people who claim for disaster assistance are honest and are in urgent need of help,” Ms Plibersek said. “Unfortunately, there are always a small number who try to exploit the situation and take money away from the people who really need it.”
Ms Plibersek said the task force of 11 Centrelink officers had not detected any cases of fraud at this stage, but that a number of claims were being investigated.
To date, more than $200 million has been paid to more than a quarter of a million flood victims across Australia.
Eligible victims are entitled to $1000 for affected adults and $400 for affected children. People who have lost income can also claim up to the equivalent of the Newstart Allowance for 13 weeks.
Ms Plibersek said the task force was put together within Centrelink’s business integrity arm and was scrutinising suspicious claim forms.
“My message to people who attempt to rort the system is this: You will be caught and you could be referred for criminal prosecution.”
She said convicted people faced large fines and even imprisonment. In the aftermath of the Victorian bushfires three Centrelink fraudsters were convicted. Another 18 were convicted after the North Queensland floods three years ago.
“Centrelink has a robust fraud-and-compliance operation which uses sophisticated techniques such as data matching to spot dodgy claim forms.”
Last year Centrelink conducted 3.5 million customer eligibility and entitlement reviews and referred 3400 customers for prosecutions, with a conviction rate of 99.3%.