Social welfare and the guaranteed minimum income (GMI) scheme cost €479 million in 2015 and 2016, the Audit Service announced on Tuesday.
In its annual report containing the findings of the Labour Ministry’s institutional audit for the two years, the agency found that in addition to various social welfare spending totalling €220 million for 2015 and €258 million for 2016, €1.3 million went to asylum seekers.
However, the service noted, in the period covered by the audit ending November 2016, social welfare payments were still being made to applicants for whom a decision regarding GMI eligibility was still pending.
The Audit Service also found that a policy subsidising care services was being operated by two schemes – social welfare and GMI – with different eligibility requirements.
It recommended that a timeline be devised for the required co-ordination between all departments involved as soon as possible, designed to address all legal provisions and digitising payments systems and introducing reliable procedures and software for all evaluation activities.
In a statement of response, the Labour Ministry said it was aware of most of the issues raised by auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides in his report, and they have since been either resolved or addressed.
The ministry added that with the expected completion of the Welfare Payment department’s staffing needs any minor outstanding issues will also be resolved.
In the statement, the ministry said it had the opportunity to discuss the Audit Service’s findings with service officials, and noted that its contribution to the uncovering of weaknesses and omissions and bringing them to the ministry’s attention was “extremely important”.
It added that the audit related to the period immediately following introduction of the reform, with several of the problems identified inevitably caused by the sheer magnitude of the reform.
“The government and the ministry, considering the scope of the changes introduced and the relatively limited human and other resources, adopted a conscious and targeted strategy of prioritisation and gradual implementation of the pursued changes, primarily aiming to support the public and families in need of such support,” the ministry’s statement said.