Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

As I blogged five months ago, when National is attacked with bad publicity, it’s Party strategists retaliate;

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National under attack – defaults to Deflection 2 - chester borrows - welfare reforms - beneficiary bashing

See previous blogpost:  National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

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As I wrote in the above blogpost, when threatened with bad headlines or a scandal of some description, National’s automatic defense is to generally to default to one of three deflections;

  1. Blame previous the Labour government
  2. Release story on ‘welfare abuse’
  3. Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

In February of this year,  the Auditor-General released a report into Key’s dealings with Skycity. The resulting  publicity became positively toxic for the Nats.

Toby Manhire, in a Listener  article dated 19 February, listed  ten quotes from the AG”s report, which were highly  damning of National. It was by no means the “vindication” that Key claimed (knowing full well that 99% of the public would never read the AG’s report).

On cue, Associate Social Development Minister, Chester Borrows, issued media releases on National’s latest “crack down” on “welfare abuse”;

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Government cracking down on benefit fraud

Source

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National is once again being hit by a slew of bad headlines;

Smith gives nod for open-cast coal mine on conservation land

NZ unprepared for a deep water oil spill,  Greens say

Consumers hard hit by hefty electricity price rises

National’s fix over GCSB draws a storm of protest

Loans door shutting on first-home buyers

High petrol prices hit struggling families

Job ad stall hints at unemployment rise

SkyCity deal doesn’t add up: Treasury

Housing plan ‘a weak compromise’

And again,  on cue, Chester Borrows has done his bit, by defaulting to Option #2,

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beneficiary bashing - chester borrows - paula bennett - social welfare - welfare abuse - bene bashing

Source: Radio NZ – Thousands stopped from getting benefits not entitled to

Checkpoint: Listen to Chester Borrows on Checkpoint

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However, Borrows is mis-leading the public in one respect. On 18 July, the Minister released a media statement where he said,

“Enhanced information sharing between Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has identified and stopped 3139 illegitimate benefits in just six months, says Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows…

[…]

… The enhanced information sharing started earlier this year, highlighting beneficiaries whose taxable income did not match what they had declared to MSD. MSD staff reviewed each case, and where the beneficiary was earning enough income that they were no longer eligible to receive a benefit, that benefit was stopped.”

Source: Beehive – Information sharing stops more welfare fraud

This is simply untrue.

WINZ announced this in May last year – over a year ago,

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IRD and MSD improve information sharing

Source: WINZ – IRD and MSD improve information sharing

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But even earlier than last year, MSD/WINZ were leeping track of their “clients”. The following two letters are from an acquaintance, who luckily keeps every piece of correspondence from government departments.

The first is from 2009,

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winz-letter-2009

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[Published with permission.]

The letter clearly states,

“We regularly compare our records with other government agencies…”

(Note; the over-lap that so concerned the MSD was a matter of two weeks, and centered more around confusion as to when the WINZ “client” was deemed to start work.)

The second letter is from 2001,

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WINZ letter 2001

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[Published with permission.]

Even in 2001 – twelve years ago – WINZ and the Immigration Dept were comparing information.

Accordingly, I have emailed Chester Borrows, seeking clarification of  his claim that information sharing is a “recent development”. I have also sought details of the alleged 3,139 cases of benefit “fraud” that Borrows has asserted;

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Chester.Borrows@parliament.govt.nz
date:     Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:50 PM
subject:     OIA Request Please

Kia Ora Mr Borrows,

I am lodging  an OIA request with your office.

According to recent media releases from your office, 3,139 cases of alleged benefit fraud has been identified, including 1,948 people who were wrongly getting the unemployment benefit and 559 illegitimately on the sickness benefit. These cases all supposedly invloved working whilst receiving a WINZ Benefit.

My questions are;

1. Over what period of time were these 3,139 cases detected?

2. When did IRD and WINZ begin sharing information?

3. Does WINZ and the Dept of Immigrqation also share information on WINZ beneficiaries who travel overseas whilst in receipt of a benefit?

4. When did that WINZ/Immigration Dept arrangement, in respect to Q3,  begin?

5. What other government ministeries, departments, SOEs, and other bodies does WINZ share information with?

6. When did those arrangements, in respect in Q5, begin?

[and in a follow-up email shortly thereafter.]

7. Of the 3139 illegitimate benefits  found, what was the time period involved with people receiving a benefit and earning income from another source?

How many were within the following periods;

– 1 week

– 2 weeks

– 3 weeks

– 4 weeks

– 2 months

– 3 months

– 6 months

– Over 6 months – under one year

– Over one year

8. How many prosecutions have been undertaken of all nine cohorts listed above?
9. How many have been convicted?

10. How many were in actual employment whilst receiving a welfare benefit, as opposed to some other source of income?

I look forward to your response within the legislated time period.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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If the rest of Minister Borrows’ claims are as dubious as his assertion that information sharing between government department “started earlier this year” – then all claims and comments from National ministers demand checking and confirmation.

Otherwise, claims of mass benefit fraud appear to be little more than a propaganda exercise designed to deceive the public and deflect criticism  from economic and social problems that National appears stymied to address.

At the very least, Borrows is taking credit for a policy – inter-departmental information sharing – that has been in place since 2001, at least. How many times can politicians take credit for policies they had little or no part in implementing?!

Wouldn’t that  be fraudulent on the part of the Minister?

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Image

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 July 2013.

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= fs =

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  1. Deborah Kean
    26 July 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Please do let us know if there is a response from Chester Borrows!
    Deb 🙂

    • 26 July 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Indeed I will Debs. So far his office has acknowledged my request, but nothing else.

  2. Strawberry Paddocks
    26 July 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Out neighbour is 63, frail, and looking after two grand-children, and received a letter from WINZ demanding that she be work-ready. The shock and stress is worrying her immensely and she has no idea what she will do. The children may have to go into foster care.

    This is the face of John Key’s horrible government. How vile can people like Bennett get?

  3. 27 July 2013 at 11:04 am

    Strawberry Paddocks :
    Out neighbour is 63, frail, and looking after two grand-children, and received a letter from WINZ demanding that she be work-ready. The shock and stress is worrying her immensely and she has no idea what she will do. The children may have to go into foster care.
    This is the face of John Key’s horrible government. How vile can people like Bennett get?

    Its 1992 all over again.

    Need we say more

    Nats default position when berefit of ideas assault beneficaires.

  4. Fern
    28 July 2013 at 11:40 am

    Very heartening to read about your wise friend who kept all his WINZ correspondence.
    Here’s another tip for all beneficiaries, and especially those aged 60-plus: go to the WINZ office and gather up all the free pamphlets that apply (however vaguely) to your situation. Read every word of them and keep for future reference. There is information in these pamphlets that you may not find anywhere else, and you can’t expect your case manager to remember every detail of them.
    This was what I did when I was on a benefit and it enabled me to have a $30pw cut in my benefit reinstated by my rather dim case manager.
    At that time (year 2000) I also discovered that WINZ case managers had a hotline to Wellington where they could ask for interpretation of the rules on the spot – no mucking around with letters back and forth. I hope this is still the case.

  1. 6 December 2013 at 6:49 am
  2. 13 December 2013 at 8:00 am
  3. 21 April 2014 at 8:01 am
  4. 17 April 2016 at 7:58 pm
  5. 22 April 2016 at 8:02 am

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