Go to top of page

Centrelink: Letter claims staff told to ignore errors in data-matching program

19 January 2017
Pat McGrath
ABC News

Centrelink staff working on the agency's controversial debt claw-back program have been told to ignore errors in calculations and push through debts they know are incorrect, according to an anonymous letter written by a person claiming to be a Centrelink compliance officer.

Activist group GetUp! released the eight-page letter it received from a person claiming to have worked on Centrelink's automated data-matching project, known as the Online Compliance Intervention.

"What is known to date is literally the tip of the iceberg compared to the true scope of the deliberate wrongful actions that are being deployed under the department's Online Compliance Intervention (OCI) review process, which is raising debts that are incorrect for far more reasons than anyone outside the organisation knows about," the letter said.

Welfare groups are pushing the Federal Government to suspend the project after a raft of welfare recipients claimed the automated system incorrectly matched their reported income with their tax records.

[...]

"Compliance officers like myself are bound by tight rules that direct us to leave duplicated income, not correct debts based on income already provided by customers, leave in income that is legally not assessable, not correct debts for income that has been declared and coded to other parts of our system based on how we break up income … and leave in information that is doubled up."

The author said they wrote the letter "because I along with so many of my co-workers have tried to stop the wrong that is being done to thousands of our customers on a daily basis and I can no longer live with what we are doing".

7.30 has been unable to establish the identity of the author of the letter, nor verify all its claims.

However, several past and present staff members have corroborated parts of the letter, including the claim that OCI system is incorrectly tallying up payments that are usually treated as non-assessable income.