Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows welcomed the impending start of new information sharing between Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) as a huge step forward in preventing welfare fraud.
"The vast majority of beneficiaries are doing the best they can and follow the rules, but a small minority exploit the system at great cost to taxpayers," says Mr Borrows.
Last year alone 714 people were convicted of benefit fraud totalling $23.4 million.
"Expanding information sharing between government agencies is the logical next step to take as we continue to improve the integrity of the welfare system."
Starting in the coming weeks the new information sharing, announced earlier this year by Mr Borrows and Revenue Minister Peter Dunne, will begin to deliver useable information to MSD.
This information - initially covering PAYE earnings for approximately 320,000 working age beneficiaries - will allow MSD to quickly correct entitlements when a beneficiary’s income changes, such as when they start a new job.
As part of this process MSD will over the coming weeks write to all beneficiaries whose information is being exchanged to notify them of the new information sharing. This will also remind them of ways to fulfil their obligation to keep MSD’s records about them up to date.
"Most beneficiaries inform Work and Income of changes in their circumstances as they are required to do and for them nothing will change, but those who seek to exploit the system will be caught out by information sharing."
More than $100 million is owed by people convicted of welfare fraud.
"It just makes sense to use the technology at our disposal to stop this money going out the door in the first place," says Mr Borrows.
"My message is for people to simply do the right thing and let Work and Income know if their circumstances change."