Opposition integrity spokesperson Fiona Simpson has moved for an urgent report on a possible multi-million-dollar flood fraud scandal, first reported in Gympie Today in April.
The paper reported on complaints from long term Gympie residents, who said they had received multiple letters advising apparently fictitious individuals that $180 in flood assistance had been placed in their bank accounts.
The letters appeared to be on the the letterhead of the Communities, Housing and Digital Economy Department, which is answerable to minister Leeanne Enoch.
Some residents reported receiving up to 20 letters.
Later reports, including on the ABC, appear to indicate similar scams possibly at the expense of the Commonwealth as well as the state.
The potential scam and others like it may also involve other flooded areas, including Northern New South Wales and other parts of Queensland.
But Ms Enoch’s media office did not convey any urgent concern, pointing out that recipients of the letters, addressed to obviously non-existent people, could be prosecuted if they had opened mail addressed to someone else, even someone who does not appear to exist.
Gympie MP Tony Perrett has complained of government inaction, including in a 25 March letter he wrote to Ms Enoch on the issue
The only response had been a statement that there would be a routine audit, as was normal after any emergency funds distribution.
“It shouldn’t be flicked off to an audit (to be completed in the future), it should be investigated by the Minister now,” he said.
Ms Simpson has called for more immediate action, in a Question on Notice to Ms Enoch.
The minister is due to answer the question on 10 June.
Ms Simpson asked Ms Enoch to advise “how many fraudulent relief payments have been detected, the data validation actions taken prior to payment to reduce fraud, the number of matters referred to authorities for investigation or prosecution and the total number of payments made.”
Gympie Today reported on 22 April that “numerous Gympie people have taken to social media to report receiving letters at their home addresses from the department, advising apparently non-existent people of the electronic transfer of flood money into their bank accounts.”
One woman reported receiving letters which she assumed were for her and inadvertently opened, before noting the apparently computer generated name to which it was addressed.
One woman claimed she had receivedd letters addressed to 25 fictitious names.
It is not known how many Gympie region people have been unknowingly co-opted into the scheme, but one man, Barry Nielsen, posted that he had lived at hsi address ffor more than 50 years.
“Three days ago I received a letter for someone I had never heard of,” he said.
Kellie Ballard said she had received three letters at an address where she had lived for 10 years, and had never heard of any of the people to whom the letters were addressed.
“It may seem like a silly question, but are they trying to claim flood relief or something?” she asked.