Government is using false figures to defend its robo-debt system

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Although the Government asserts that it has reclaimed $300 million in debts owed by welfare recipients, it refuses to disclose exactly how much money it has recovered.

Launched in July 2016, the automated debt compliance system has been the subject of much scrutiny from its inception. Since human oversight has been removed from the recovery process it has been plagued by errors, which have resulted in thousands of Australians receiving incorrect debt notices for money they don’t owe.

The Government has repeatedly stuck by its flawed system, claiming that it has recovered $300 million worth of Centrelink overpayments. When the Department of Human Services (DHS) was asked exactly how much debt has been reclaimed, it was unable to provide an estimate.

The $300 million said to have been reclaimed is the amount of debt that has been identified by the Government – not the amount actually recovered.

Typically, amounts recovered add up to roughly half of that which is identified. For example, in the last financial year, the Government identified $2.8 billion in money owed, but only $1.54 billion was recovered.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge is still defending the system, despite his admission that the program has some flaws. Labor has called for the system to be suspended while an investigation into its efficacy and accuracy continues, to which Mr Tudge replied: “… frankly, I don’t think many taxpayers would support that call”.

Thousands of Australians have been wrongly assigned debt notices and, subsequently, harassed by debt collectors and threatened with jail time for not resolving the issue within 28 days. This is despite the DHS admitting that the dispute process takes around three weeks longer than the time assigned to repay any debts owed.

“The time taken to finalise a formal review depends on the complexity of the individual case. For the financial year to date, the average time to finalise a review in relation [to] debt decision was 49 days,” stated Department of Human Services General Manager, Hank Jongen.

Amid these complaints and errors, do you think the Government should declare how much money it has actually recovered? Do you think the Government is right to defend its debt-recovery system by using false figures? Is it time the Government admitted defeat and cleaned up the robo-debt system?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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36 Comments

Total Comments: 36
  1. 0
    0

    “False figures” – ANOTHER indication of the start of a dictatorial government.

    • 0
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      “False figures” – ANOTHER indication of a criminal minded government.

    • 0
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      Seems as if some of our polies are taking a leaf out of Trumps book. Just keep telling lie after lie after lie some of it will stick even when its found to be false.

      Mind you some of our polies habits seem to be catching over there. One interview with an advisor to Trump just never answered a question but kept waffling about other things unrelated. Just what our polies do when asked a question during question time in parliament.

      Hmm I wonder when our polies will start coming up with “alternative facts”

  2. 0
    0

    It will happen the same time as the Government admits to all the money that they waste on mistakes, department changes and the wrought’s that eventually catch up with them. In other words….
    ever

  3. 0
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    No point complaining on this site. Sign one of the petitions !Greens, Labor or Get Up !

  4. 0
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    In my personal experience there is nothing that comes close to having a Person looking at the information. I was a Payroll and Human Resources Manager, in their wisdom (to save money) management instigated an electronic system and a central office for several locations. The payroll expenses increased by 25-30% because no one was monitoring the input or output. No one was watching the manipulation of time sheets etc (otherwise known as fiddling the records).

    • 0
      0

      Computer systems replace people. Businesses today are sold with a ratio of people to profits, customers etc. So the less staff you have the better these figures are and the better price you will get for your business. A company that recently floated on the ASX had 50% of their staff join a contracting agency so that they were no longer staff and their ratios looked good.

      It is not about saving money in many cases.

    • 0
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      Or looking like you are saving money. We could sack all the doctors, nurses and administrators and health spending figures would look fabulous.

  5. 0
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    They continually stand by their system as though it actually works when in reality the Centrelink computer system is riddled with errors on not just this matter but right throughout.
    It crashes frequently due to programing errors and all data becomes unavailable and IMO corrupted.
    The staff at our local Centrelink have confirmed the above to me and say their computer system is a shambles.
    The government is either deliberately letting this happen to annoy people and delay payments or they are employing morons to design their system.
    Either way the Minister and his departmental heads would clearly be stretched to run a Friday night club chook raffle.
    And it will cost them votes as everyone I know who deals with Centrelink is fed up to the back teeth and will be voting for anyone except the Coalition.

    • 0
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      Everyone that works with computers knows that if you get a difficult inquiry you just tell the customer that the computer is slow or isn’t working so that you can get rid of that irate customer.

    • 0
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      Dave R, this is only one of the many problems this government is having since Bozo, the NBN ball-dropper, flucted into office. The ATO software is stuffed, as well, tax collection from domesic big business and overseas companies a sham. Politicians (Health MinisterS, Trade Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister, Finance Minister, etc) using taxpayers’ money for private travel, holidays, polo and football outings, etc with legislation put into place to cut Age Pension entitlements to make up for this theft by government employees. Turncoat has no policy whatsoever to follow to improve this country. This leadership style is “management by crisis” and this is by words and promises only, with no corrective action taken with abusive political mates. “run a Friday night chook raffle”? – this do nothing, know nothing government couldn’t run a BATH!! And we are the bunnies who have to suffer for the inept, incompetent weakness of the PM by being made to get along on less. Hypocritical, undemocratic, pathetic, and grossly unfair!!

    • 0
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      DaveR,

      It won’t cost them votes. There have been major problems with Centrelink since it was created. Successive governments have done nothing to fix them, and in most cases, just exacerbate them.

      Labor had plenty of time to sort out Centrelink. IT DID NOTHING. Now it is just letting the Libs wreck it even more. A few labor people have put out a press release telling the Government things are not right. Sure, that’s going to frighten them into fixing it. I haven’t seen any sign of it yet.

      So can we end this nonsense that a change of government will fix things. It wont. Shorten and Turnbull as bad as each other. Neither will do anything.

      Everyone here is just sitting on their hands doing nothing but whine about it. In other countries people get off their backsides and mobilise the population to get change.

  6. 0
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    Has anyone thought that maybe all this publicity about the Centrelink robo system has been engineered so that people get informed so that they now won’t do the wrong thing because they are now afraid they will get caught out by it?

    This idea certainly fits perfectly with what has been happening.

    • 0
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      What? How could you make such a suggestion OG? Not when you have been so quickly and cheerfully assisted to resolve issues on behalf of other people in the past! How could you accuse Centrelink of engaging in such unethical conduct as to engineer counter intuitive adverse publicity for the purpose of deliberately frightening its vulnerable clientele? Or have you just slipped up in your barrage of inane comments? And identified a truth for once?

    • 0
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      That’s the good thing about being my own person and not accountable to anyone. I can say what I like.

  7. 0
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    This Centrelink cockup is just a smoke screen to try and get us to forget about politicians rorting their entitlements.

  8. 0
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    The whole government is flawed but that can be corrected at the next election I hope for the sake of our older Australians and Aussie Workers.

  9. 0
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    If Tudge has nothing to hide declare the actual figures.
    He states he doesn’t think we would want to know, just shows how much this government is out of touch, not just with the electorate but with REALITY!!!!!

    • 0
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      Actual figures from Tudge “The Fudge”? I don’t think this will ever happen. This is a do-nothing government without a plan or policy. Whatever they touch turns to clay, like “Midas Mal” and the NBN. These tossers don’t know what to do except claim taxpayers’ money on shonky expense accounts, knowing they won’t ever be brought to task by their “leader” (HA!) and will continue to exploit and pilfer because there are no checks and balances – just open, passively approved slather. Turvey, these people don’t even know which way is up when it comes to governing a country and are only self-interested in their own bank accounts. You will see nothing which even resembles action (movement, not words) until right before the next election, as always. This country is being financially raped and democracy deprived by this inept, incompetent, and greedy government.

  10. 0
    0

    Semantics as is the wont of every Government, Spin Doctors are highly paid excuse makers or put the best light on the matter at hand.
    It does not matter which side of politics you follow, those are the rules.
    It does seem to be forgotten though that if this much has been identified – how much of the corrupt payments were still being claimed and paid ? Is this extrapolated figure taken into consideration or just up to the point of cessation of payment ?

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