ATHENS Thousands of Greeks have been receiving pensions despite being long dead, the Labour Minister said on Monday, promising to crack down on social security fraud that is costing the debt-laden country millions each year.
Minister Louka Katseli also said the government is investigating a suspiciously high number of people over the age of 100 and still drawing their pensions.
Data crosschecks had revealed that about 4,500 deceased civil servants continued getting their pension cheques, burdening taxpayers with more than 16 million euros (14 million pounds) each year, Katseli told daily Ta Nea in an interview.
Greek authorities keep poor records and citizens often fail to declare the death of relatives to continue cashing in their pensions.
The Labour Ministry alone has pledged to cut spending by about 8 billion euros in 2012-2015, one of several conditions the country must meet to continue receiving bailout funds from the European Union and IMF.
Cracking down on fraud and better means-testing could help Greece to meet much of this target without cutting benefits. "Fiscal consolidation without social cost is feasible, provided there is will, persistence and efficiency," Katseli said.
The government is now setting its sights on the 9,000 centenarians still drawing pensions in the country. "We are currently checking how many of them are alive," Katseli said.
(Reporting by Harry Papachristou; editing by David Stamp)