Outsourcing the Welfare State: The Role of Private Actors in Welfare Fraud Investigations

Sofia Ranchordás, Ymre Schuurmans

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This article discusses the growing trend to employ private parties as informants, private detectives and providers of digital technology (e.g., automated risk assessments) to predict and investigate welfare fraud. In this article, we argue that this type of outsourcing is problematic for multiple reasons. First, private actors and governments often have an ill-defined contractual relationship which creates legal uncertainty and promotes the use of unconventional evidence-gathering instruments. This issue also raises concerns regarding the accountability of public bodies and the transparency and fairness of administrative procedure. Second, the private enforcement of anti-fraud regulations is susceptible of endangering the adequate pursuit of the public interest due to the misalignment of public and private interests. Third, the outsourcing of enforcement tasks to private technology companies and their opaque automated systems can be detrimental to the right to due process, the right to non-discrimination, and the privacy of welfare recipients. This article contributes to the literature with a novel critical account of how private actors are reshaping the welfare state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-42
Number of pages38
JournalEuropean Journal of Comparative Law and Governance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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