That is why I was pleased to see this week that Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows had been able to cancel more than 5,300 illegitimate benefits by enhancing information sharing between Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).
These benefits were costing the taxpayer at least $56 million per year. In March this year we began comparing MSD records with Inland Revenue data in order to identify working age beneficiaries who had not accurately reported their income to Work and Income. While most New Zealanders who receive a benefit follow the correct procedures, it is disappointing to see how many people are breaking the law and taking money they are not entitled too.
The new information sharing now enables MSD to correct the amount or type of benefit being paid, and where there is reason to believe the under-reporting was deliberate, investigate for possible welfare fraud. In addition to the 5,310 cancellations, a further 2,995 benefits have had their rate altered to reflect other income that beneficiary is receiving. Defrauding the welfare system is the same as stealing from the till at work, and those who have deliberately tried to defraud the taxpayer will be held to account for their actions.
On another matter, I would like to take the opportunity to express my sadness at the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela was an inspirational leader, and a remarkable man. And on behalf of the New Zealand people and the Government, I would like to express my condolences to his family and to all South Africans.
I will be leading a delegation to the funeral.