The Turnbull Government has admitted that almost 20,000 debt-recovery notices it issued via the Centrelink robo-debt program were either way off or wrong.
The Department of Human Services Minister, Alan Tudge, revealed that the use of the robo-debt recovery scheme up to March 2017 had resulted in 19,980 incorrect debt notices. Of these, 12,524 recipients owed less and 7456 owed nothing.
These notices have since been adjusted or rescinded. However, the number of incorrect debt letters is expected to grow, as the ones reported so far only represent instances where recipients have challenged the amounts owed.
The Human Services spokesperson for Labor, Linda Burney, says the figures are “absolutely shocking”.
“This is the Government finally telling the truth and finally admitting that they sent out 20,000 letters to people accusing them of owing money that they did not owe,” said Ms Burney.
“It is just an outrage that so many people were accused. It is incompetence that so many people were accused of owing money that they did not owe.”
However, the Government says that the system is working, even though the Commonwealth Ombudsman deems otherwise.
Acting Ombudsman Richard Glenn found that the program had a “profoundly negative impact on the lives of thousands of Australians”. He also said that 20 per cent of recipients sent a debt notice who then requested further information found that they owed nothing.
Labor has again called on the Government to suspend the program until it acts on the 21 recommendations handed down from the Senate committee. The Senate review also said the process should be immediately stopped.
What do you think of the robo-debt program? Have you received a dodgy debt letter?