Billions in benefits paid out in error

The Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) estimates that it paid out 16.4 billion kronor ($2.3 billion) too much in various benefits in 2009, according to a new analysis.

“Yes, it can sound like a massive amount,” said Ulrika Larsson at the agency to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

The newspaper reports that the high level of erroneous payments are for the most part accounted for by accidental errors from applicants, but that deliberate cheating and fraud have also made a significant contribution.

Those claiming sickness benefits were paid four billion kronor too much, according to the newspaper. The agency paid out an excess of 719 million kronor in housing benefit. Assistance payments were also identified as an area with a large number of errors in the analysis that has been submitted to the government.

Child benefit payments are however reported to have resulted in few instances of mistakes or fraud.

According to the agency, only a “fraction” of mistakes and fraud are uncovered in their routine checks and controls. The number of unrecorded cases is large, the agency admits.

“There is an element of uncertainty – we have not found any better method to establish the level of unrecorded cases, but we calculate that this is a well-founded judgement which is also in line with results from other countries,” Larsson told the newspaper.

Despite the apparent lack of tools to improve the situation, the various departments at the agency responsible for the benefit categories will review their routines to find ways to reduce errors and fraud. Among the measures under consideration are increasing information resources and amending application forms.

The Swedish Social Insurance Agency was responsible for payments totalling 470 billion kronor covering various social benefits and retirement pensions.

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