Editorial: This is not victimless offending

By Andrew Austin

The dole or benefit is a touchy subject for some hardworking New Zealanders who believe people should get off their backsides and work for a living.

It is a fairly extreme stance to take, but unfortunately more and more people are starting to subscribe to this view. This view is entrenched because sometimes a minority of beneficiaries often do not come across as the most deserving of a handout. I tend to believe that it is better to have a flawed social system than not have one at all. I would hate to see people who were genuinely suffering slip through the cracks because of some rigid rules that don't allow room for sympathy.

However, one thing that should not be tolerated is out-and-out theft of our hard earned money.

That is why it is pleasing to see a criminal who has been milking the system for years with a well-thought out and callous fraud finally caught and punished.

A 57-year-old Napier woman Pani Walker, also known as Matengaro Parata, has been sentenced to two years and one month in jail for fraudulently claiming $167,000 over a 19-year period.

While it is good that the Ministry for Social Development did catch her, questions do need to be asked about how she was able to get away with her crime for so long.

This is not some poor unfortunate person who accidently received money from the state and kept it. She knowingly set out to defraud the taxpayer. Most taxpayers, including myself, work hard for our money and along comes this scam artist who decides to steal from a system designed to help those in need.

I am sure that when she first went onto the benefit, Walker did need a helping hand. But, when she realised she would be able to con the authorities, she deliberately defrauded the system by applying for a second benefit under her unused birth name.

From there she received about $75,000 in unemployment benefits and $73,000 in sickness benefits, along with accommodation supplements, training benefits, student and disability allowances and other benefits and grants.

It was the second of three sentencings within a month for Napier and Hastings women who have each admitted extended six-figure benefit fraud.

The ministry says this type of offending can't happen anymore because controls are tighter.

I hope they are right, because every time someone defrauds the system, some deserving person could miss out.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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