A civil servant is in hot water after a misplaced decimal point resulted in a group of 69 unemployed people being paid millions in extra benefits.
They include a debt-ridden single mum who is refusing to hand back her benefit money after receiving 100 times the normal amount because of the gaffe.
Each of the 69 was paid between 30,000 and 150,000 EUR (25,871 to 129,357 GBP) – meaning that in total an extra 2.5 million EUR (2.16 million GBP) was paid out in error by the city council in the Dutch city of The Hague.
The recipients were on a special ‘Get-Back-To-Work’ scheme in which they were allowed to work part-time while still receiving benefits.
The city council has launched an internal investigation into the error as several signatures were reportedly required to authorise a payment so large – meaning not just one but several civil servants must have missed the mistake.
A municipal spokesman said: “Those who received the erroneous payments have since been approached. When the money has been returned, we will urgently pay out the right amount.”
Most paid back the money when they realised it was a mistake, but the authority is still waiting for some of them to do so.
They include Marischka Borgmeijer, 47, who received 35,794 EUR (30,874 GBP) instead of 357.94 EUR (309 GBP).
She said she had immediately used a big portion of the money to pay off her debts and did not see why she should have to give it back.
Ms Borgmeijer said: “I’m not a swindler, but now this money has suddenly come my way, I think – it just had to be like this.”
And, even though she was contacted by her own bank as well as by the local authority about the mistake, she said she decided not to transfer it back.
Ms Borgmeijer added: “Of course I saw instantly that it was an error, that the amount had to be 357 EUR instead of 100 times that amount.
“The question was if I could immediately transfer it back. I agreed to it. But a while later I started to think. They were the ones to make the error?
“If common people make an error we are always punished for it. Why should they get away with it?”
Ms Borgmeijer, who says she got into financial difficulties after divorcing her husband, is hoping the council will agree to a compromise.
She wants officials to let her pay back the money in instalments. She also hopes they will agree to let her continue to receive her benefits.