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Ombudsman report shows huge flaws remain with automated debt recovery system

The report released today by the Commonwealth Ombudsman shows that the automated debt recovery system is still severely flawed and is hurting people accessing the social safety net.

“Although carefully worded, the Ombudsman report released today into the system shows that there are still a lot of flaws in the automated debt recovery system despite the Government tinkering around the edges to make things better”, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said today.

“The Centrelink automated debt recovery system is continuing to use income details from the ATO and average it out across a period regardless of if a recipient has an intermittent and fluctuating income. This is despite evidence to the senate inquiry and Commonwealth Ombudsman showing that this is hugely problematic and resulting in incorrect debt notices.

“Averaging out incomes across a certain period is fundamentally flawed and has resulted in thousands of incorrect debt notices that recipients have to navigate. Why should recipients have to rake through old records that they may not have access to and prove their innocence? The method assumes that people accessing the social safety net are doing something wrong when, apart from a select few, they are not.

“The Government has agreed to recommendations by the Ombudsman to improve the system, but it is clear large structural flaws remain. Although there is some fine-tuning, the system is still issuing thousands of flawed debts indications that innocent people are having to argue, in some cases this is impacting their mental health.”

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