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Centrelink staff told not to fix mistakes in debt notices – whistleblower

19 January 2017
Christopher Knaus
Guardian

Centrelink’s compliance teams are being told not to correct errors with its flawed debt recovery program, allowing the “unjust system” to generate millions of dollars in bogus debts, a new whistleblower has alleged. 

The explosive claims are detailed in a lengthy letter anonymously sent by a Centrelink compliance officer to the progressive political group GetUp, which released it publicly alongside the Community and Public Sector Union on Thursday.

The department of human services has dismissed the letter as inaccurate, and general manager Hank Jongen said it did not “accurately represent how the system works”. 

Jongen said “some staff do not welcome technology driven change” and the department would continue to try to explain how the system operates to workers.

The letter details a litany of errors with the new automated compliance system and speaks of the despair felt by Centrelink’s compliance officers as vulnerable Australians are wrongly issued with welfare debts.

“We are struggling daily with our consciences and pushing back against our leaders every single day,” the whistleblower wrote. “We are telling the [online compliance intervention system] help desk over and over that what we are doing is wrong. 

“Nothing changes and gradually I can see officers simply accepting that they are powerless to change anything, powerless to help customers have accurate outcomes and powerless to stop this process. I see these reviews every working day and I am horrified at what I am being directed to do.

“I am risking my job sending this information in the desperate hope that exposing such an … unjust system might just make a difference.”