herald

Friday 28 November 2014

Civil servant sacked after diverting dole funds to family

ITWAS discovered that the employee was making payments and awarding allowances to friends and family.

She was also found to have paid Jobseeker's benefit, relating to a male known to her, into her own bank account.

In an attempt to defend her actions the employee said she was "not thinking properly" when she continued to award welfare benefits to a relative who was out of the country.

In another instance, she blamed the "stress of Christmas time" on forms being submitted without proper authorisation.

But she was unable to explain why she had paid an extra week's fuel allowance to another person whom she knew.

In total, the employee was found to breach department rules on 13 occasions, according to details released to the Herald under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents state that the "most serious" issue of all was the diversion of an individual's "Jobseeker's Allowance payments into her own bank account without his knowledge and for a period when he was not entitled to payment as he was outside the State".

In the wake of the probe the employee met senior department officials in September last year where she was told she was suspected of the "mishandling of taxpayers' money" and breaching department "guidelines and rules".

The matter was brought to the attention of Social Protection Minister Joan Burton and department secretary general Niamh O'Donoghue.

The staff member was informed that the matter concerned "serious misconduct".

She was told that she was to be dismissed and wrote to the Secretary General pleading for a "lesser penalty", adding that she was willing to "recompense to the department".

"I will do whatever is necessary of me to deal with these issues and ensure that my future behaviour is beyond reproach. I would appeal to your good offices to give me the opportunity to prove my good faith in this matters, by allowing me to return to work on a lesser penalty."

But the pleas fell on deaf ears and the employee was officially sacked in March of this year.

However, despite the seriousness of her actions, the department decided not to refer the matter to the gardai.

hnews@herald.ie

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