Plans for insurers to fund a new Garda unit to tackle fraud claims have been knocked on the head by the Garda Commissioner and the minister responsible for insurance reform.

Minister of State Michael D‘Arcy said that funding of a Garda insurance fraud unit by the insurance industry “won‘t be happening”.

He said he met Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to discuss the issue and he agreed with the commissioner, who was not prepared to accept An Garda Síochána being funded from outside the Exchequer.

This led the Government being accused by the Alliance for Insurance Reform of engaging in a “perpetual round of bickering and pass the parcel” instead of progressing key insurance reforms.

Last summer insurers agreed to collectively pay €1m a year to the State to fund the new fraud unit, which would be operationally independent of insurance companies.

The proposal to set up a dedicated insurance fraud unit was recommended in the Government‘s own cost of insurance working group report.

The idea was based on the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department operated by the City of London Police, which is funded by insurance companies in Britain, but they have no operational control over it.

The UK fraud unit has been credited with cutting down on false insurance claims there.

But Mr D‘Arcy has revealed that he met with Commissioner Harris on December 13 to discuss the Government‘s proposal for an insurance industry funded fraud unit.

“The outcome of this discussion was that the commissioner and Minister D‘Arcy agreed that, in principle, An Garda Síochána should not be funded by any source other than the Exchequer for the purposes of tackling insurance fraud,” said a spokesman for the minister.

“The commissioner will consider the way forward, namely in the establishment of an investigative capacity within the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau.”

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The minister‘s spokesman insisted that progress was being made on insurance reform across a number of areas.

However, the Alliance for Insurance Reform and Insurance Ireland both claimed progress had slowed.

Peter Boland, of the Alliance, said it was vital a specialised Garda insurance fraud unit was set up immediately.

“This has been delayed because of a squabble over who should pay – the insurance industry, which is prepared to pay, or the taxpayer.”

He said the Personal Injuries Assessment Board has generated a surplus of €17.5m from fees paid over the years. This should be used to fund the Garda insurance fraud unit.

Irish Independent