Courtney Houssos MLC probes Service NSW over alleged $16m of fraudulent grants

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A parliamentary inquiry has heard Service NSW handed out $16.23 million in suspected fraudulent government grants but has only recovered $40,350.

Courtney Houssos MLC questioned why so little has been recovered from what is suspected as fraudulent applications for natural disaster grants. 

“Unfortunately it’s a very slow process, we do seek compensation orders wherever a conviction has made, the value of those compensation orders sits at just under a million requested,” Service NSW CEO Damon Rees said.

“We have certainly evolved the way we approach the delivery of grants, the more recent grants are delivered as act of grace payments and Revenue NSW performs the compliance and funds recovery role there.”

“It gives government additional options to use the powers of Revenue NSW for recovery of funds.”

A parliamentary inquiry is probing Service NSW CEO Damon Rees over the alleged fraud (Photo via IT News)

The $16 million in grants were paid out to a total of 2,347 applicants. Mr. Rees says 74 people have been arrested and 33 people have been convicted. 

Chair of the Inquiry, Greens MLC David Shoebridge, put to Mr. Rees that it would take 400 years to recoup the money paid to fraudsters. 

Another $15 million worth of possibly fraudulent grants are being investigated by Service NSW. 

Service NSW is alleged to have handed out more than $16 million in fraudulent grants (Photo: AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

The inquiry heard that three Service NSW staff members had been reported for suspected fraud, two of which had been fully investigated and found to have no basis. 

Ms. Houssos asked about a staff member who used their Service NSW email to apply for bushfire grants 55 times, to the value of more than $700,000.

“That was found to be a customer service team member that was attempting to help customers with their applications, and incorrectly and inappropriately used their own email addressed in an effort to assist customers who were struggling to put in these applications,” Mr. Rees said.

“It was an example of procedures not being followed but it was not an example of any internal fraud.”

The third investigation into possible internal fraud is ongoing.

Source: ABC News

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