Published Tuesday, 26 June 2012
About 70% of fraud and error identified is being recovered. (© Getty)
Housing benefit, rates and pensions were targeted by fraudsters, the Northern Ireland Audit Office said, while concessionary travel passes and disabled parking badges for dead people were still being used.
The deception was uncovered over the last two years as part of a crackdown on fraud which matches data held by public bodies with files like death records.
The initiative compares data like payrolls, pensions and trade creditors' records against other information held by the same or different organisation to determine whether the recipients of payments are eligible.
For example, housing benefit payments can be compared to payroll to discover if claimants are not declaring income which may remove their entitlement to benefit.
Suspected fraud, error and overpayment of pension payments amounted to more than £2 million.
This may have been a result of pensions being paid to a pensioner who had died - but whose relatives fail to notify the fund's administrator.
Pensioners receiving housing benefit also may not be declaring their full pension income.
Between April 2010 and March 2012, more than £13 million of rates evasion and error were identified in domestic rates. Almost 500 cases of rates evasion were discovered.
Meanwhile, during the same period, housing benefit fraud and overpayment amounted to just over £4 million and several high-value prosecutions were secured.
About 70% of fraud and error identified by the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) in Northern Ireland is currently being recovered.
Auditor General Kieran Donnelly said: "These powers have strengthened considerably the hand of the public sector to combat fraud."
"The results clearly demonstrate the value of data-matching as an effective counter-fraud tool.
He said: "This is good news at a time when public resources are particularly stretched.
"Public bodies are encouraged to spend to save and to recognise the contribution that their participation in the NFI can make to the interests of Northern Ireland as a whole."
The report said some bodies still needed to include the initiative more in their counter-fraud strategies. It added there should be greater publicity of successful prosecutions to deter potential fraudsters.