Warnings of irregularities at Danish social welfare authority raised in 2006

The National Audit Office (Rigsrevisionen) raised concerns about possible irregularities at Socialstyrelsen, an administrative department of the Ministry for Children and Social Affairs, in a series of reports from 2006-2015.

Warnings of irregularities at Danish social welfare authority raised in 2006
Photo: Nils Svalebøg/Ritzau Scanpix

Earlier this week, the ministry confirmed that one of the agency’s former employees was wanted by police for long-term misappropriation of public funds totalling 111 million kroner ($17.23 million).

The auditory body has warned over a number of years of potential issues relating to funds administered by Socialstyrelsen, according to investigative media Altinget, which conducted a review of National Audit Office reports dating back to 2002.

Internal checks did not function well enough, security weaknesses were present in IT systems, and requirements for satisfactory and reliable administration were not fulfilled, according to the reports reviewed by Altinget.

Meanwhile, privileged IT access was given to a relatively high number of people who would theoretically be able to misuse the system and cover their tracks.

The national auditor identified issues at the ministry and at Socialstyrelsen in reports between 2006 and 2015, Altinget writes.

Anna Britta Troelsgaard Nielsen, a 64-year-old former employee at Socialstyrelsen is suspected of transferring 111 million kroner of public funds to herself over a 16-year period from 2002 to 2018, the ministry confirmed at a press conference on Tuesday.

The money is reported to have been taken in many cases from state funds designated to support socially underprivileged people. This is provided for by state funding known as satspuljen, derived from regulating the increase in all social welfare payments (overførselsindkomster) in order to keep them slightly lower than natural growth in wages.

Eyvind Vesselbo, a former MP and social welfare spokesperson with the Liberal (Venstre) party, said that the ministry had failed to listen to warnings.

Vesselbo has also previously criticized a lack of transparency in the use of satspuljen money for social projects.

“This is part of what I attempted to bring up with various ministers over the years, because there were always various National Audit Office reports coming through showing what you mention here,” he said to Altinget.

“But it was always refuted with (claims) that it was all under control and that the administrators said there were no problems,” he added.

The ministry responded to criticisms by increasing demands on organizations that received funding from the agency, Vesselbo also said.

Minister for Children and Social Affairs Mai Mercado said that tighter control of satspuljen funds was required.

“This affair shows quite clearly that there is a need for more transparency and good control mechanisms relating to the allocation of (state funds),” she told Altinget.

READ ALSO: Employee at Danish social welfare authority embezzled 111 million kroner


Former Danish social worker convicted of massive fraud

A former employee of Denmark's social services was sentenced to six and half years in prison on Tuesday for embezzling millions in funds, meant for people in need, over decades.

Former Danish social worker convicted of massive fraud
Britta Nielsen's defence lawyer Nima Nabipour speaks to media. Photo:Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Britta Nielsen, 65, was accused of diverting 117 million Danish kroner (15.7 million euros) between 1993 and 2018 from the social services to her personal bank accounts by creating fictitious projects.

In its verdict, the Copenhagen court found Nielsen guilty of “fraud of a particular grave nature… abusing a public position and forgery of a particular grave nature”.

The six year and six month prison sentence is one of the longest handed down for economic crimes in the country, according to Danish media.

Prosecutors had requested at least eight years in prison, claiming she had abused her position as a public servant.

“She has betrayed the trust she was given when she became employed by the National Board of Social Services,” prosecutor Lisbeth Jørgensen told the court during the trial.

Nielsen, who was employed by the social services agency for 40 years, admitted to the fraud but not the amount of money suggested by the prosecution.

During the trial, she explained that she had been drawn into a “vicious circle” and claimed she had acted to improve to the lives of her three children, who have also been charged with handling of stolen goods.

Her lawyer, Nima Nabipour, has asked for a sentence of four to six years, arguing that crimes committed before 2009 have reached their statute of limitations.

The court however found her liable for the embezzling of the full 117 million.

Nabipour has also pleaded mitigating circumstances, like Nielsen's age and health.

The trial has had to be adjourned several times due to Nielsen collapsing in court and being too ill to stand trial.

However, a medical examination found her to be in good health.

Nielsen was arrested in late 2018 in South Africa, where she had fled, and later extradited to Denmark.

In addition to her jail sentence over 113 million kroner of Nielsen's assets were confiscated.