Man paid pension by council for 20 years after his death

Councillor asks if criminal proceedings are pending against whoever is in receipt of the money.

Sefton Council HQ at Bootle Town Hall
Sefton Council HQ at Bootle Town Hall
Sefton Council HQ at Bootle Town Hall

Sefton Council continued to pay a man’s pension for 20 years after his death.

The council said it was unaware the pensioner, who lived outside the borough at the time of his death, was deceased until a third party alerted them earlier this year.

The overpayment was mentioned in a recent report into the council’s assurance and counter-fraud performance produced ahead of Sefton Council’s audit and governance committee this week,

At the committee, Sefton’s liberal democrat leader Cllr John Pugh said he was “intrigued” at how the the pension could have continued to have been paid for so many years after the man’s death.

How did it happen?

Cllr Pugh asked: “I am puzzled how that could have happened at all. If his death was registered was there not some automatic way of picking it up? How come it was found out? Are criminal proceedings pending for the person in receipt?”

Responding, chief internal auditor David Eden said: “His death was not registered in Sefton. There were complicated circumstances.

“We were unaware until very recently he was dead and we were contacted by someone who raised a query and brought it to our attention.

“There is good potential for recovery [of the money].”

He added that there was a “potential weakness in the system historically.”

Sefton Council were asked for further details about whether the man had previously been employed by the council, where the money had been paid and how much had been paid out but said they had “nothing further to add.”

What the council report uncovered

The report stated: “The Council’s corporate debt team in legal services is currently seeking recovery of a pension overpayment due to a failure by the executor(s) to notify of the death of a pensioner approximately 20 years ago.”

While details of the amount of overpayment were not released and Sefton Council have declined to provide any further comment or details, the report said: “The overpayment is the smaller part of a larger external pension payment that has been erroneously paid to the deceased pensioner.

“The overpayment was initially reported to and investigated by the HR team.”

The report also stated that “proof of life” checks on pensioners at regular intervals would be a “good practice” in future to prevent such overpayments.

The report further adds: “It is reasonable for the Council to expect repayment of a pension overpayment from a deceased person’s estate and we are seeing some progress in our ongoing investigations” with further updates to be provided to the committee at a later date.