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

The Government won’t disclose actual debt recovered. DHS admits further faults.

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

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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    24th Jan 2017
    "False figures" - ANOTHER indication of the start of a dictatorial government.
    24th Jan 2017
    "False figures" - ANOTHER indication of a criminal minded government.
    24th Jan 2017
    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"
    Ted Wards
    24th Jan 2017
    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....never
    24th Jan 2017
    No point complaining on this site. Sign one of the petitions !Greens, Labor or Get Up !
    24th Jan 2017
    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).
    Old Geezer
    24th Jan 2017
    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.
    24th Jan 2017
    Or looking like you are saving money. We could sack all the doctors, nurses and administrators and health spending figures would look fabulous.
    Dave R
    24th Jan 2017
    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.
    Old Geezer
    24th Jan 2017
    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.
    24th Jan 2017
    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!!
    25th Jan 2017

    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.
    Old Geezer
    24th Jan 2017
    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.
    24th Jan 2017
    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?
    Old Geezer
    24th Jan 2017
    That's the good thing about being my own person and not accountable to anyone. I can say what I like.
    24th Jan 2017
    This Centrelink cockup is just a smoke screen to try and get us to forget about politicians rorting their entitlements.
    24th Jan 2017
    You betcha!
    24th Jan 2017
    I agree, also to keep putting down welfare recipients, hiding the fact that there are not enough jobs anyway. What about getting the billions of dollars not paid in tax by multi-national companies, stop paying subsidies to mining corps and continuous payments of benefits to past politicians.
    29th Jan 2017
    My 9 year old grandson could run the Govt entitlements scheme-I expect its all in the book"". So why do they get it wrong? Obvious they get it wrong on purpose because if they got it right hundreds on the Govt payroll would be out of work. Politicians turn a blind eye because they are in there for the money first.
    24th Jan 2017
    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.
    Old Geezer
    24th Jan 2017
    Don't hold your breath.
    24th Jan 2017
    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!!!!!
    24th Jan 2017
    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.
    24th Jan 2017
    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 ?
    24th Jan 2017
    there are still a few tickets left for this mickey mouse comedy show , its called, " it would be hilarious , if it wasn't so serious". Tex.
    24th Jan 2017
    Using falsehoods, whether figures or anything else is a standard modus operandi for governments and oppositions of all complexions, Liberal or Labour makes no difference.
    24th Jan 2017
    What is really required is an addition to the Constitution stating that the federal government exists to SERVE the people of Australia, and that all dealings are to be transparent, visible and honest. Failure to do so should result in instant dismissal (without parliamentary pension). The Constitution, though, will also have to define service and honesty, as they are currently missing from the parliamentary lexicon.
    25th Jan 2017
    Ross Gittins -writing about this stuff up said this today

    Canberra we have a problem.
    The Ministerial denial of Centrelink's Debt Retrieval problems beggars belief

    "Its worse than that, however Porter and Tudge are from the Liberals hard right. You can see from their speeches and remarks that they have little sympathy for people poor enough to need social welfare, and every sympathy for their own class, groaning under the weight of a tax rate of supposedly "almost 50per cent"

    Their sacred mission is to prevent the need for higher taxes by ensuring that none of their Departments "clients" get away with a Dollar more than they are supposed to get.

    The Full article, along with another detailed article by Peter Martin is from todays AGE
    26th Jan 2017
    I understand this is now all out of date. Those claiming to have been victimized in television appearances have had their claims reviewed and have entered into repayment agreements with Centrelink.
    26th Jan 2017
    Oh! Yeah! Is this fake news?

    26th Jan 2017
    Latest news has found that 2/3rd of welfare recipients said to be owing money is "correct".

    SIMON BENSONThe Australian12:00AM January 26, 2017

    Labor’s attempts to mount a ­repeat of its discredited Mediscare campaign against Centrelink’s automated debt recovery system have been exposed, with at least two-thirds of those publicly claiming to be victims of Centrelink found to owe significant debts to the ­taxpayer.

    In an embarrassing blunder for the opposition, it has also been ­revealed that a third of the people used to fuel a media campaign against the government were not subject to the automated system.

    An assessment of the 52 cases of people publicly claiming they were being harassed by Centrelink with automated debt notices has revealed that 18 had in fact been identified under a manual system set up by the former Labor government.

    The opposition had called for the automated debt recovery program — designed to assist in the recovery of an estimated $4 billion in welfare overpayments — to be suspended. But Labor could not guarantee yesterday that all the so-called victims, whose names it had supplied to the media, were “innocent”.

    The assessments, carried out by the Department of Human Services following inquiries by The Australian and requested by the opposition, contradict the ­majority of the claims of supposed inaccuracies made by the 52 self-identified public cases in which people complained of being victims­ of the automated system.

    The department also confirmed that a number of those who claimed to have been ­wrongly targeted had in fact accepted­ that the debt was owed, with some even having entered into ­repayment programs.

    One claimant, seized upon by Labor after being championed in a television program as a victim, was discovered to have been claiming the Youth Allowance while not studying and failing to declare income from several jobs, leading to a debt to the taxpayer of almost $12,000.

    Another had been working for a full year but had not declared a job, leading to a welfare repayment debt of $4000.

    A woman who claimed to have been wronged had failed to ­declare income of $37,500 from a small business while on carer and parenting payments. The woman had already entered into a repayment agreement.

    Of the 34 self-identified cases subject to the new system, almost 60 per cent had been found to have been overpaid for failing to declare other income or employment. A further 12 per cent who had been found to owe money had asked for a reassessment. The remaini­ng number of ­aggrieved welfare recipients had not both­ered to contact Centrelink.

    The opposition, which is using the Medicare scare-type tactics which almost cost the Coalition government, admitted yesterday that it had supplied the names of many of those involved to the media but could not ascertain the veracity of their allegations, ­despite demanding that Human Services Minister Alan Tudge take up their cases.

    “We can’t guarantee that in every case they are innocent,” a spokesman for Labor’s human services spokeswoman Linda Burney " and it goes on...
    26th Jan 2017
    Hmmmm... I have a problem with this.

    How many letters were sent out? last time I heard it was 120,000 and now it is probably more. now we seem to be talking about peanut numbers on identified cases.

    We all know that there are a certain percentage of people who will try and fudge the system. We are talking about a percentage of 52 people here out of 120,000 odd letters here. Apart from this the 18 people already identified by Centerlink were quite probably sent a letter as well seeing there does not seem a very good interface between the Centerlink manual system and this crappy computerized system.

    Who is throwing this crap into the fray. The Australian. Once again part of the News Corp empire controlled by who? That friend of the LNP Mr Murdock.

    No wonder Mr Trump can down the press with the tag of fake news.
    26th Jan 2017
    Hi Radish "F", I do not give any credence to any political story/opinion piece/article etc from any News Corp source, they are too partisan to be objective. Further I do not think that the so called Mediscare has been discredited but has been proved substantially correct.
    Another minor point of order, you stated that a woman failed to declare income while having carer payments (I make no comment on her parenting payments). Carer payments are not subject to either asset or income tests, they are paid to any person, however rich or poor, who has satisfied Centrelink of their carer responsibilities (and are saving the Fed Government a small fortune).
    3rd Feb 2017
    A Centrelink WHISTLEBLOWER recently revealed that the AUTOMATED SYSTEM IS FLAWED and that person could no longer keep silent about it after discussing with his wife before going public and in danger of losing his job there.
    3rd Feb 2017
    Even when computers replaced people in Social Securities previously, people were getting paid the dole even after informing S.S. that they had become employed only to be told not to worry as there were glitches in the system.
    This was in the 70's I think!

    17th Jun 2017

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