ATHENS – While trying to crack down on pension fraud, tougher rules on benefits have led to some 42 million euros ($54.37 million) in savings, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said.
He said the results came after a review of the pensions being paid out by the Greek state and stricter rules governing pension registrations.
An effort launched in 2012 to rationalize the pension system and weed out false claims has trimmed the state’s pension payroll by around 1.3 million euros ($1.68 million) a month, Staikouras said.
He didn’t mention it takes a year or longer for recipients to get their first check and two years or more before receiving drastically-slashed lump sums and auxiliary benefits cut on the orders of international lenders.
“Over the past two years, efforts have been made to promote clarity, transparency and more efficient management of the public pension system,” Staikouras said. “Among other measures, we have completed the registry of pensioners so that not one illegal pension is being paid out today.”
He didn’t say how that claim coincided with ongoing fraud. It’s still common in Greece for people to keep cashing the pension checks of dead relatives and for people to receive additional benefits fraudulently, such as faking blindness and other ailments.
A 64-year-old woman was arrested in the Langada suburb of Thessaloniki on Sept. 16 on suspicion that she had been cashing in the pension of a dead aunt for six years.
The unnamed woman, who faces fraud charges, is said to have cashed in more than 33,000 euros ($42,710) from 2006 to 2012 from her aunt’s bank account, of which she was a co-beneficiary. Authorities said she never notified them her aunt was dead and that she just kept cashing the checks.
The biggest obstacle to rationalizing the pension system was cross-referencing death records with those of eligible pensioners in an effort to crack down on heirs claiming the pensions of deceased relatives and he said the fakers were weeded out, although he didn’t mention the latest case.
Staikouras added that the Finance Ministry has issued regulations for a complete record of all pensioners to be drawn up every five years in order to avert any future abuse of the system.
The registration process foresees pensioners or a representative appointed by power of attorney physically appearing at pension funds to provide proof of life.