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Policies on "marriage type relationship" fraud

R Gavey made this Official Information request to Ministry of Social Development

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From: R Gavey

Dear Ministry of Social Development,

I would like to make a request under the Official Information Act 1982 for information on the Ministry of Social Development’s policies on benefit fraud investigation processes where a line of enquiry was relationship status (or “marriage type relationship” fraud).

More specifically, I would like the following information:

1. Ministry of Social Development’s policies on relationship status
• How does the Ministry of Social Development determine a benefit recipient’s relationship status? Furthermore, how does the Ministry of Social Development determine when a relationship started?
• What are the specific criteria the Ministry of Social Development uses to determine a benefit recipient’s relationship status e.g. living in the same house, financial support, etc?
• Does the Ministry of Social Development use algorithms (artificial intelligence/machine learning) in the process of determining a benefit recipient’s relationship status? If yes, when did the Ministry of Social Development start using such technologies and by whom/how were they designed?
• How does the Ministry of Social Development establish a debt for “marriage type relationship” fraud? Furthermore, how does the Ministry of Social Development determine the amount of debt owed to the Ministry?

2. Ministry of Social Development investigation process
• On what grounds do the Ministry of Social Development decide to initiate an investigation into a benefit recipient's relationship status? What are the common means through which the Ministry receives allegations of “marriage type relationship” fraud?
• Who conducts these investigations and what relevant qualifications do they have?
• How many specialist fraud investigators does the Ministry of Social Development have currently? If possible, provide this number broken down by year from 2000 to 2020.
• What powers do the investigators have when conducting investigations into benefit recipients’ relationship status?
• What sources of (personal) data are the investigators permitted to access?
• What investigation techniques are employed by the Ministry of Social Development when conducting investigations into benefit recipients’ relationship status? Do investigators conduct inquiries with benefit recipients’ neighbours, friends, family members, workmates, employers, children’s schools and acquaintances?
• Are benefit recipients informed when an investigation is initiated?
• What rights and entitlements do benefit recipients have during this investigation process?

3. Ministry of Social Development’s policies on benefit fraud prosecutions
• How does the Ministry of Social Development determine whether to prosecute someone for "marriage type relationship" fraud?
• Who makes this decision within the Ministry?
• The Ministry of Social Development client service manager George Van Ooyen was quoted in a 2020 Stuff article saying that: “The ministry is now focused on prosecuting only the more serious cases of fraud that, for example, occurred over longer periods or involved bigger overpayments.” (see: https://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standar...). Does the Ministry of Social Development still agree with this statement?
• Has there been a discernible decision within the Ministry (or direction from the government) to use alternative means (other than prosecution) for more minor cases of benefit fraud/overpayment? If yes, when was this decision made and what are these alternative means (e.g. internal debt recovery)?
• What are the driving considerations in prosecutions e.g. debt recovery, punishment, deterrence, etc?

Any further information in relation to the Ministry of Social Development’s policies for "marriage type relationship" fraud (e.g. briefings, policy documents, staff training materials, etc) would also be appreciated.

Ngā mihi nui,
R Gavey

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From: OIA_Requests (MSD)
Ministry of Social Development

Tēnā koe R Gavey,

Thank you for your email received 7 September 2020, under the Official Information Act 1982. Your request has been forwarded to the appropriate officials at National Office to respond. You can expect a decision as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case not later than 20 working days after the day on which the request was received.
 
Nā mātou noa, nā

Official and Parliamentary Information team   |  Ministerial and Executive Services
Ministry of Social Development

Our Purpose:
We help New Zealanders to help themselves to be safe, strong and independent
Ko ta mātou he whakamana tangata kia tū haumaru, kia tū kaha, kia tū motuhake

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From: OIA_Requests (MSD)
Ministry of Social Development


Attachment 20201005 OIA extension letter R GAVEY.pdf
80K Download View as HTML


Tēnā koe Mr R Gavey,

 

Please find attached a letter advising of the need to extend the time
available to make a decision on your OIA request received 7 September 2020
until 2 November 2020.

 

Nā mātou noa, nā

 

Official and Parliamentary Information team   |  Ministerial and
Executive Services

Ministry of Social Development

Our purpose:
We help New Zealanders to be safe, strong and independent.
Manaaki Tangata, Manaaki Whānau.

 

------------------------------- This email and any attachments may contain
information that is confidential and subject to legal privilege. If you
are not the intended recipient, any use, dissemination, distribution or
duplication of this email and attachments is prohibited. If you have
received this email in error please notify the author immediately and
erase all copies of the email and attachments. The Ministry of Social
Development accepts no responsibility for changes made to this message or
attachments after transmission from the Ministry.
-------------------------------

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From: OIA_Requests (MSD)
Ministry of Social Development

Dear R.Gavey

 

On 7 September 2020, you emailed the Ministry of Social Development (the
Ministry) requesting, under the Official Information Act 1982, the
following information:

 

Information on the Ministry of Social Development’s policies on benefit
fraud investigation processes where a line of enquiry was relationship
status (or “marriage type relationship” fraud). More specifically, I would
like the following information:

 1. How does the Ministry of Social Development determine a benefit
recipient’s relationship status?

 

 2. Furthermore, how does the Ministry of Social Development determine
when a relationship started?

 

 3. What are the specific criteria the Ministry of Social Development uses
to determine a benefit recipient’s relationship status e.g. living in
the same house, financial support, etc?

 

 4. Does the Ministry of Social Development use algorithms (artificial
intelligence/machine learning) in the process of determining a benefit
recipient’s relationship status? If yes, when did the Ministry of
Social Development start using such technologies and by whom/how were
they designed?

 

 5. How does the Ministry of Social Development establish a debt for
“marriage type relationship” fraud? Furthermore, how does the Ministry
of Social Development determine the amount of debt owed to the
Ministry?

 

 6. On what grounds do the Ministry of Social Development decide to
initiate an investigation into a benefit recipient's relationship
status? What are the common means through which the Ministry receives
allegations of “marriage type relationship” fraud?

 

 7. Who conducts these investigations and what relevant qualifications do
they have?

 

 8. How many specialist fraud investigators does the Ministry of Social
Development have currently? If possible, provide this number broken
down by year from 2000 to 2020.

 

 9. What powers do the investigators have when conducting investigations
into benefit recipients’ relationship status?

 

10. What sources of (personal) data are the investigators permitted to
access?

 

11. What investigation techniques are employed by the Ministry of Social
Development when conducting investigations into benefit recipients’
relationship status? Do investigators conduct inquiries with benefit
recipients’ neighbours, friends, family members, workmates, employers,
children’s schools and acquaintances?

 

12. Are benefit recipients informed when an investigation is initiated?

 

13. What rights and entitlements do benefit recipients have during this
investigation process?

 

14. How does the Ministry of Social Development determine whether to
prosecute someone for "marriage type relationship" fraud?

 

15. Who makes this decision within the Ministry?

 

16. The Ministry of Social Development client service manager George Van
Ooyen was quoted in a 2020 Stuff article saying that: “The ministry is
now focused on prosecuting only the more serious cases of fraud that,
for example, occurred over longer periods or involved bigger
overpayments. Does the Ministry of Social Development still agree with
this statement?

 

17. Has there been a discernible decision within the Ministry (or
direction from the government) to use alternative means (other than
prosecution) for more minor cases of benefit fraud/overpayment? If
yes, when was this decision made and what are these alternative means
(e.g. internal debt recovery)?

 

18. What are the driving considerations in prosecutions e.g. debt
recovery, punishment, deterrence, etc?

19. Any further information in relation to the Ministry of Social
Development’s policies for "marriage type relationship" fraud (e.g.
briefings, policy documents, staff training materials, etc) would also
be appreciated.

 

The Ministry has decided to grant your request in part. However, it will
take more time to prepare the information for release. You will be
provided with responses to questions 1-19, and in addition, you will be
provided with a spreadsheet containing the relevant data that is able to
be provided in response to question 8. Within the response, the Ministry
has made the decision to refuse some information under section 18(e) of
the Official Information Act, as the information does not exist, or
despite reasonable efforts, cannot be found.

 

The information will be sent to you by 17 November 2020.

If you wish to discuss this decision with us, please feel free to contact
[1][MSD request email].

 

If you are not satisfied with this decision, you have the right to seek an
investigation and review by the Ombudsman. Information about how to make a
complaint is available at [2]www.ombudsman.parliament.nz or 0800 802 602.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Official and Parliamentary Information team | Ministerial and Executive
Services

Ministry of Social Development

 

Our Purpose:
We help New Zealanders to be safe, strong and independent.
Manaaki Tangata, Manaaki Whânau.

 

------------------------------- This email and any attachments may contain
information that is confidential and subject to legal privilege. If you
are not the intended recipient, any use, dissemination, distribution or
duplication of this email and attachments is prohibited. If you have
received this email in error please notify the author immediately and
erase all copies of the email and attachments. The Ministry of Social
Development accepts no responsibility for changes made to this message or
attachments after transmission from the Ministry.
-------------------------------

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[MSD request email]
2. http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/

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From: R Gavey

Dear Official and Parliamentary Information team at the Ministry of Social Development,

Thank you for keeping me updated on the progress of my Official Information Act request submitted on 7 September 2020.

In your most recent email (dated 2 November) you stated that the information will be available by 17 November.

I requested this information to inform a piece of University coursework. This is due on 20 November.

While I understand that the full request cannot necessarily be met before 17 November, I would be grateful to be sent any components of my request that may be ready before this date.

Ngā mihi nui,
R Gavey

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From: OIA_Requests (MSD)
Ministry of Social Development


Attachment 20201116 OIA response letter R GAVEY.pdf
3.8M Download View as HTML


Tçnâ koe R Gavey,

 

Please find attached the Ministry’s response to your Official Information
Act request.

 

Nâ mâtou noa, nâ

 

Official and Parliamentary Information team   |  Ministerial and
Executive Services

Ministry of Social Development

 

Our Purpose:
We help New Zealanders to be safe, strong and independent.
Manaaki Tangata, Manaaki Whânau.

 

 

 

------------------------------- This email and any attachments may contain
information that is confidential and subject to legal privilege. If you
are not the intended recipient, any use, dissemination, distribution or
duplication of this email and attachments is prohibited. If you have
received this email in error please notify the author immediately and
erase all copies of the email and attachments. The Ministry of Social
Development accepts no responsibility for changes made to this message or
attachments after transmission from the Ministry.
-------------------------------

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