16 May 2019

Social Development Ministry insists benefit fraud probes are legal

From Morning Report, 8:10 am on 16 May 2019

The Ministry of Social Development has suspended all requests for information to telecommunications companies and the police in the wake of a scathing report carried out by the Privacy Commission.

The report found ministry fraud investigations have been intrusive, excessive and even illegal. Investigators have been collecting large amounts of highly sensitive information about beneficiaries, without their knowledge.

This includes text messages between couples, of a sexual or intimate nature.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards says some of the Ministry's behaviour is highly inappropriate. Listen to our interview with the Privacy Commissioner here.

Viv Rickard is the ministry's deputy chief executive for service delivery. He talks to Susie Ferguson.