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No significant increase in debt review requests, says Centrelink

27 January 2017
Christopher Knaus
Guardian

Centrelink has maintained it is not seeing any significant increase in requests to review debts generated by its controversial automated recovery system, directly contradicting the claims of its own staff. 

Despite the continued criticism of the system, the Department of Human Services said the number of requests for formal review had not increased dramatically.

“Overall, we have not seen a significant increase in the number of requests for a formal review of decision as a result of this activity,” said the department general manager, Hank Jongen. 

But the claim sits in stark contrast to the allegations of Centrelink staff.

A Centrelink compliance officer told Guardian Australia that the department’s claim was misleading. “There’s definitely been an increase in requests for reviews but I think they’re getting away with it because they are calling the first review a ‘reassessment’ as it is usually completed online by the customer,” the source said.

“The second one is also called a reassessment and is manual, this usually fixes the issues of [employer] duplication or limiting dates. Only after that do we put in an appeals request.”

The compliance officer said that was likely allowing the government to maintain that the number of formal reviews of decisions were staying low.

“We’re still having most, if not all, the original issues we were before and are constantly reminded that the system is not new and will not be removed,” the source said.