'Very alarming' discrepancy between PPS numbers and population

 

THE GOVERNMENT should carry out an audit of the personal public service (PPS) number system to reduce the huge disparity between the numbers in circulation and the population of the State, an Oireachtas committee was told yesterday.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Niall Collins said it was “very alarming” that whereas the population of the State was 4.58 million, there were 7.2 million PPS numbers, a difference of 2.62 million.

A person’s PPS number enables them to access social welfare benefits, public services and information. State agencies that use PPS numbers to identify individuals include the Department of Social Protection, the Revenue Commissioners and the Health Service Executive.

At a meeting of the Oireachtas Environment Committee, Mr Collins said abuse or criminal activity by people using duplicate PPS numbers or numbers belonging to people who may have died could cost the State hugely in terms of social welfare fraud.

“There is also the concern around identity theft. I know the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, is moving ahead with the introduction of a new identity card, but in conjunction with that I believe the Government should carry out an audit of the PPS number system.”

The Limerick TD was citing figures revealed to the committee yesterday by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.

In a presentation on the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2011, Mr Hogan said the proposed legislation provided for important reforms.

It would amend the terms of reference of a constituency commission by providing for a reduction in the number of TDs, “subject to the relevant provisions of the Constitution”.

The Bill also provided for a limit of six months for the issue of a writ to hold a Dáil byelection.

Further amendments would reduce the spending limit at a presidential election from €1,300,000 to €750,000 by each candidate, and a cut in the maximum amount that could be reimbursed to a presidential candidate from €260,000 to €200,000.