The auditor general has rejected a request to investigate widespread complaints about Centrelink’s automated debt recovery system.
The Australian National Audit Office said it did not want to duplicate the work of a separate investigation into the controversial system now being conducted by the commonwealth ombudsman, but would consider the issue again next financial year.
Anglicare became the latest organisation to call for the suspension of the system on Wednesday, joining unions, lawyers, disability advocates, welfare rights centres, the Australian Council of Social Services and other charities.
Anglicare Australia’s executive director, Kasy Chambers, said the system was a “step towards criminalisation of poverty and disadvantage”, because it shifted the onus on to individuals to prove they do not owe Centrelink a debt but made it difficult to respond appropriately through Centrelink’s overloaded systems.
“It is the failure to take the impact of these processes seriously and to treat everyone concerned with respect which concerns us,” Chambers said.
“Mistakes will be made in all complex systems, however it reflects particularly poorly on government ministers who reject out of hand evidence of the inaccuracy of this clumsy process and the distress it has caused,” she said.