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The Independent Online
Widespread fraud together with wrongly calculated payments and overspending led Sir John Bourn, the comptroller and auditor general, to refuse to ratify the accounts of welfare payments for the eighth year running.

In a report issued by the National Audit Office (NAO), Sir John qualified his audit opinion on the Benefits Agency 1995/6 accounts because it had spent more than was approved by Parliament, there was "material error" in income support and family credit awards, and spending was "materially affected" by fraud. Overspending in 1995/6 was pounds 184.7m, compared with 1pounds 39.7m in 1994/5.

The NAO found errors led to income support overpayments of pounds 485.4m and underpayments of pounds 167.5m- 3.8 per cent of the pounds 17bn spent on benefit.