18th Feb 2009 - 00:00
The Department of Social and Family Affairs in Ireland has confirmed it has launched an investigation into the school meals system, after allegations of fraud were made.
Reports in the Irish press suggest that the allegations centre around a supply company, which has apparently defrauded the government department of more than 750,000 Euros. The alleged fraud is reported to have taken place over a three year period. The Irish Independent newspaper said: "The investigation began late last year after the department was alerted to an unusually high level of subsidies being claimed by the company. In one school, it is understood subsidies were being claimed for 700 students when only 600 were availing of meals." In a statement, the department said allegations of fraud were taken seriously and were fully investigated: "Under the School Meals' Programme, the department deals directly with the schools concerned and does not deal with any suppliers that a school may engage. Any allegations of fraud or abuse of the social welfare system are taken seriously by the department and are fully investigated. The department cannot comment on individual cases of fraud or abuse until they have been successfully prosecuted through the courts. "However, the department can confirm that it is currently investigating an allegation in relation to the operation of the School Meals' Programme." In Ireland, funding is issued on the basis of a rate per meal, per child and school headteachers then confirm the numbers and types of meals to be provided. Accounts must then be submitted to verify the amount of money being claimed from the Department of Social and Family Affairs.