Centrelink confesses to $2.84 billion overpayment bungle

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In its latest bungle, Centrelink last year overpaid welfare recipients $2.84 billion, the new Human Services Minister Michael Keenan has confessed. The Department of Human Services (DHS) paid around 2.4 million people an average of $1174 each more than they were entitled to receive during the year.

The figures were released by the Federal Government last week, with human error and fraud blamed for the overpayments.

“It is important that the system operates with integrity, that people are not overpaid more than they are entitled to,” said Mr Keenan.

DHS has only recovered about $1.64 billion to date, with debt collectors used to retrieve $126 million.

The Federal Opposition was quick to comment on the release of the data, with Labor frontbencher Doug Cameron saying that the Turnbull government was incompetent in its running of Centrelink.

“Last year, 55 million calls went unanswered to Centrelink and average call wait times have increased,” Mr Cameron said.

What do you think? Are the overpayment numbers concerning? What would you do if Centrelink overpaid you and then demanded you repay the money?

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110 Comments

Total Comments: 110
  1. 0
    0

    When my husband, who had been on disability payments died a few years ago a week after turning 65, I was told by Centrelink that I would be getting a Widow’s allowance.
    I did, but a few months later I was sent a letter asking fort he money I had been paid as they now said I wasn’t entitled to it. Luckily I had enough in the bank to pay it back. I just wish they would get things right in the first place when they have been given all the information they asked for.

    • 0
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      Fiona , that story is a woeful one , what cruel nasty little machine the government has to destroy people and their faith in a terribly warped badly run and robbed, special pension fund.
      I stand amazed at the terrible way both major parties handle money.
      Agenda is the only reason or they would do more sensible things.
      Why we vote the same two parties in has got me baffled.

  2. 0
    0

    its there bungle and not ours. So we should not have to pay the money back to them as they did the bloomer and not us

    • 0
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      Hope you never erroneously over pay someone because if you do don’t expect the over payment back.

    • 0
      0

      No excuse for either overpaying or accepting, if the money isn’t yours give it back. You know what you are entitled to, if you don’t you have to ask

    • 0
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      If it goes straight into your bank account, it might not be noticed for a while.

    • 0
      0

      Getting an assessment once a year telling me what I am entitled to.
      Could it be some people got some money from somewhere and forget to inform Centrelink about that. True I do not check my statement all that frequently either but a few hundred more I would certainly notice.

    • 0
      0

      The fact of Centrelink overpaying is not a surprise, but for anyone saying that it’s Centrelink’s fault so I should keep it, that is totally wrong, it shows lack of ethics and morality. As ‘Pancake’ says, it’s not yours, mistakes do happen; when you visit a Centrelink office, look around, there are not enough employees to deal with things, overworked employees always brings problems, mistakes are inevitable, but still, their mistake is not your bonus! ‘Pancake’, it’s good to see honesty in any form, not enough these days!

    • 0
      0

      Oh, I don’t know…. we could apply the politician rule and just say –

      “Oh, well, I over-claimed on my allowance…. get or it … plenty more where that came from”.

    • 0
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      I still haven’t been able to work out what all those payments I got form Centrelink during the GFC were all about. They have never asked for anything back. Do you think it is safe to use them after all this time as it’s well out side the time anyone is allowed to claim a debt?

    • 0
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      Lucky you to get them, BB. My partner and I had zero income at the time and got nothing.

    • 0
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      I like that one by trebor “the politician rule”. We should all use that rule when dealing with any govt entity. Basically means one can get away with anything they like and rip off the public purse !!

  3. 0
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    How much did the debt collectors charge to recover the $126m? In other words, what is the net debt collections figure?

  4. 0
    0

    This organisation seems to be a bunch of incompetent idiots why the hell does this government continue with its existing management possibly because the minister responsible is so incompetent as well why the hell do we continue to allow this and put these moron in power

  5. 0
    0

    I was overpaid child allowance years ago but fortunately had enough savings to cover it. It would be terribly stressful for those who didn’t have the money. I think Centeelink should wear their mistakes. I used to work in an Apprenticeship Centre where we paid incentives to employers and apprentices on behalf of the Government. If we didn’t assess the payment claim correctly and paid an incentive they weren’t entitled to, WE had to repay the Government, not the apprenticemor employer. It was a rare occurrence because we were so careful but the Government rules were very complex and changed regularly so that assessing claims was very difficult and stressful. It’s the reason I retired 2 years earlier than I had planned.

    • 0
      0

      That is the basis of the problem. There are so many rules and regulations, handouts, rebates, concessions and everyone is treated differently in many cases.

      Not only ensuring mistakes but costing taxpayers far too much in administration.

    • 0
      0

      Guaranteed minimum income without strings, Rae?

    • 0
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      Not sure about the no strings but certainly something a bit equitable and transparent would be a bonus.

      Personnel I still think young unemployed should be given government jobs and then helped to find other work.

      With the huge increase in population and so many relying on welfare it will get to a point where it is unaffordable.

      Then again that might very well be the plan from these far right ideologists.

  6. 0
    0

    The government does NOT run Centerlink, they merely issue directives and attempt to oversee it all.
    The person who does run Centrelink is one Hank Jongen the bloke that used to get on TV and threaten everyone!
    Ask why this incompetent man is still even working at Centrelink had it been a public company he would be unemployed!

    • 0
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      Henk Jongen is only the mouthpiece for the current as well as the previous Govts. He follows orders and comes across as a helpful bloke. I would not want his job.

    • 0
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      Wanting or not wanting his job is irrelevant, and I do believe he needs to find another job, it’s the fact that nobody in Centrelink cares, all they want is the paycheck and that’s it, otherwise why is it when they are told about rorters, as in the cases I presented to them in writing, handed to them, then as I leave I watch their actions and those letters go immediately into the waste basket, so I don’t do it anymore!

      There are people who are travelling the world 9 month of the year, receiving a full pension, yet spending sometimes twice or three times that, just on their travels. On one occasion, they had their photo taken because they travelled so much in one single year, estimation, they possible spent over a million on cruising to do that, and to my knowledge it’s been like that for years; they are one of many, but does Centrelink care, I doubt it, they’ve never been investigated.

      Centrelink told us that through customs they know when you leave the country, where you go, and when you come back, so I told them it’s crap, else why do these rich folk still spend millions on cruising and still get full Centrelink pensions, why, do you know?

    • 0
      0

      great golly. I think you have an overestimate of the cost of cruising.

      A round the world 104 day trip is around $32 000.

      Many people are spending down the extra $200 000 or so that is stopping them from getting a full pension as there is no way you can invest to earn the same income.

      Some are selling expensive assets like mobile homes, boats, paintings etc and spending down the money as they can no longer live on investments making low returns or carrying high risks.

      The maths has been explained.

      Also undocumented hearsay reports are often just binned as in many cases it is just green eyed spite.

      It is possible these people have saved, missed out because they saved but are spending now on travelling as they don’t club, gamble, smoke or drink.

      And travel is documented. It is not illegal to travel.

    • 0
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      Upper management on contract – Fat Hank is scared of losing his contracted job, thus undermining any independence he may have as a public servant. He has no option but to abide by the dictates of his political masters….

    • 0
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      It would be interesting to know what his pension will be, Trebor, after he’s finished paring down the OAP.

    • 0
      0

      But, but Rae – surely you know that all these people making these statements spend 24/7 checking mail boxes and shadowing their victims around to see how and where they spend their money?

      It’s obvious….. must be hundreds of thousands of people out there with nothing else to do than chase after their neighbours in case they are rorting Centrelink….

    • 0
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      Triss – his pension will be as fat as he is…

  7. 0
    0

    My wife and I declared all our income and assets to Centrelink, 3 times last year, and they still overpaid us, even when I brought this to their attention. I am now waiting for a letter to pay them back (not a huge amount I hope). Should it be 3 strikes and they’re out!!! I finally got them to correct, but only after I went to them recently, with all relevant information (again).

    • 0
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      Justin Bolt from Centrelink has told me that Centrelink only access your income and assets twice a year even though you may report them more often.

    • 0
      0

      Oh the joy of a means tested nightmare. No wonder sensible countries don’t bother with this inequity that costs a fortune and still not be right.

    • 0
      0

      It simply amazes me with means testing as the same simple car as be valued differently for everyone that has one. Multiply that over everyone’s assets and you have a nightmare.

    • 0
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      Try figuring out how the hell they charge for aged care. It seems to be made up as they go along and nobody has the same experience as anyone else.

      How they work out the value of a car, or house, or boat is quite strange. Nothing resembling reality if you had to sell the asset straight away.

    • 0
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      I just value them for the price I would get today and it’s real fire sale prices.

  8. 0
    0

    Of course this money should be returned, but it is obviously harder to get it back, than give it out. This type of behaviour by CL is nothing new.
    Having a lot of dealings with them when I was on the DSP, I found many of their staff disinterested, incompetent or both.
    I have been trying to get linked up to MYGov for 2 years, been to them several times and they cannot solve the problem – care factor zero!
    And we pays this circus that they call Parliament and Politicians excess amounts and ongoing rorts by way of salary and ‘add ons’ that they give themselves.
    I wish this site would start a real campaign aimed at uniting all Pensioners to come together and get rid of all of them. There are plenty of intelligent, clear thinking and honest people out there who would step up and do the job a lot better.

    • 0
      0

      Good luck mogo all that comes from here is huff and puff no guts here they seem to complain but are not prepared to do any thing about it so it seems its all too difficult so the train continues and next year be the same I like you are disappointed with retirees as well in the end they have no one but them selves to blame and the bunch of morons in canberra continue on pathetic

    • 0
      0

      You can’t blame staff for a system that is so complicated and that changes so many times that just about everyone has given up on it. It must be a nightmare working there.

    • 0
      0

      .. especially when many these days have no security of tenure and are part-time casuals….. and the PS is a proving ground for ongoing affirmative action with all of its failings.

  9. 0
    0

    The Abbot / Turnbull Liberal Government have sacked 5,000 staff from Centrelink. Of course there are consequences in efficiency and inability to properly assess entitlements.

    This same group of incompetent muppets cut 3,000 staff from the Australian Taxation Office. Everyone of them recouped his/her salary many times over. Most of these tax experts are now working for private companies helping people to minimise their tax.

  10. 0
    0

    Centrelink is a nightmare to deal with. They’re nothing but incompetent nincompoops.

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