back to article Ombudsman slams Centrelink debt recovery system

Australia's Commonwealth Ombudsman has published its report (PDF) on Centrelink’s automated debt raising and recovery system and found that while it is capable of correctly assessing debts, the agency was aware it had flaws and did little to prevent them. The system was introduced by Australia's Department of Human Services ( …

  1. Meph

    The Government wonders..

    They wonder why we don't trust them when they say that they know what's best for the citizens, and that we should just let them do what is necessary..

  2. melts

    Income histories - another fact missed

    well the report tries, but they seem to have allowed some issues to be rewritten by DHS anyway

    the most glaring of which is that this program went back 5+ years. so people needed to produce fortnightly payment histories for up to 6 years ago. and I think its fair to state people who are landing on the need for help aren't working the same job with a salary at the time, so they are likely to have varied fortnights and from varied companies.

    Now the rub is two fold for this;

    yes you need to hold your end of year statements for 5 years at least for tax purposes, and this somehow was used to prop up how centerlink could go so far back. However these are the same annual summaries used to generate the bogus debts in the first place

    and second, up until December last year centerlinks website stated you only needed to hold the last 6 months of payslips to deal with their compliance requests if you were on payments. This was not so quietly scrubbed from the site when it was pointed out.

    this to me should have made it prominently in the report, as it showed they knew it was wrong and they attempted to hide it. however we're used to govt not giving a shit and not being accountable. its sickening and i don't know what will fix that problem.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crazy talk in this day and age

    "...if [OCI] had been properly-planned and tested."

    I've been hounded from projects for attempting to do this.

    1. Magani

      Re: Crazy talk in this day and age

      I've been hounded from projects for attempting to do this.

      Been there, done that.

      One Project Mangler I talked to after my quote for a smallish project was being reviewed, was heard to say, "We don't need a testing phase as that would mean you hadn't analysed or written it correctly.".

      I withdrew my interest shortly after that.

      1. Aus Tech

        Re: Crazy talk in this day and age

        You are right about the person being a "Project Mangler". Anyone who ignores the need for a testing phase isn't a Project Manager, even if that is the Title of their position. I wonder how long that person kept going in such a blind way.

        1. Woza

          Re: Crazy talk in this day and age

          Perhaps they got a job implementing a debt recovery system...

  4. Oengus Silver badge


    an act of poor planning failed to properly consider an entirely-foreseeable set of circumstances and also failed to communicate well with the community.

    Yep, That is the public service mentality (and unfortunately the mentality of an increasing number of organisations).

    1. Denarius Silver badge

      Re: Predictable

      Oengus, been in both, been there, dome that. I believe it is other way round, with possible exception of Defence. Oz PS is catching up to the imported diseases of merkinland organisational management. As others have pointed out, for over a decade now the PHB class/managers have acquired significant contempt for technical knowledge of any kind. Causes of this destructive snobbery is debatable IMHO. Blameability is now chief unspoken criteria in all project management manglement. Not the PMs necessarily, but those above them.

      Nothing will change until the idiot idea of constant cost cutting being related to efficiency is abandoned and total value for money over a defined lifetime is enshrined in culture, not just ignored legislation. Jack Welshs' comment of the stupidity of share holder value is still worth a read.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Centrelink debt recovery system was not flawed at all

    The system was designed to screw over the poor and vulnerable. To that end it worked admirably.

  6. I J Ellis
    Big Brother


    Referring to the poor blighters as 'customers' - that's NewSpeak for you

  7. Colin Tree


    " is capable of correctly assessing debts..."

    "...non-responsive clients..."

    "...found several deficiencies in the program..."

    "...Those messes, the report finds,..."

    They're not "messes", they have drastic consequences for vulnerable people.

    Last year, my mother, on an age pension, had an issue with CentreLink,

    it is now costing her $7000/month, because of poor staffing and complications, resolving what should have been a simple paper work issue.

  8. djnapkin

    Will the head of this project be lopped? If not, why not?

  9. LustStarrr

    No, the REALLY scary thing...

    ... is that the horrendously flawed system is still in use. The Ombudsman's criticism hasn't been sufficient to cause a halt to the entire process, despite the glaring errors.

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