ACTION is expected to be taken against 12 people involved in fraudulent practices at the Social Development and Family Service Ministry.
This disclosure was made by Social Development and Family Services Minister Donna Cox in her contribution to debate on the Variation of Appropriation) (Financial Year 2022) Bill 2022 in the Senate on Friday.
She recalled speaking about fraud at her ministry being investigated by the Financial Investigation Bureau, the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau and the Fraud Squad, in her contribution to the budget debate in the House of Representatives last October.
"In fact, in the preceding 12 months before my address, there had been a 241 per cent increase in the number of reports to the TTPS (TT Police Service), with the majority of cases
involving senior citizens' pensions."
Cox said investigations were ongoing, and some at a "very sensitive stage." She added that 12 people will "soon be interrogated by the police with a view to arresting and laying charges against specific individuals."
Cox said ghost beneficiaries had been identified on the payroll and names have been sent to the police for investigation.
Since the names of these people were removed from the ministry's payroll, none of them have come forward to ask to be reinstated.
She said ongoing collaboration with the Fraud Squad "will serve to treat with the issue of fraudulent encashment of cheques from what may possibly be organised crime."
Additional action is being taken to ensure social welfare relief reaches the people it is intended for.
Cox said, "The ministry has been able to remove 12,010 pensioners from the system."
Some 7,554 are dead, but had not been previously removed.
Approximately $94 million had been issued to them.
Through a memorandum of understanding with the Immigration Division, she continued, the ministry will remove 5,000 people who are living abroad but still receiving a senior citizens pension grant.
Cox was confident that an allocation of $389,073,000 in the bill will help the ministry to meet its commitments to senior citizens to the end of the fiscal year.
Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh welcomed initiatives that would protect senior citizens against any fraudulent activity, saying, "Every dollar taken from senior citizens is a crime."
Deyalsingh said he had heard of instances of pensioners' younger relatives trying to steal money from them.