The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has sought to distance itself from Centrelink's controversial debt recovery program, telling a Senate inquiry it cannot be held accountable for how its data is used.
Centrelink is unable to track how many cases of overpayment are caused by government error, according to responses it provided to a senate committee.
The Department of Human Services provided a series of responses to questions posed by the Greens senator Rachel Siewert on welfare overpayments.
Unionised Centrelink staff have written an open letter to welfare recipients saying they share their pain about the “unfair, unjust and callous” automated debt recovery system.
The letter was released by the Community and Public Sector Union on Wednesday, as the Department of Human Services issued its own statement lambasting the media for saying the system has a 20% error rate.
The current attacks upon past and present pension payment recipients by Centrelink and the Minister for Social Services are “wrong at so many legal levels that it’s hard to know where to begin,”, ALHR President Benedict Coyne said.
The automated Centrelink Debt Recovery system has left thousands of Australian welfare recipients in crisis after a large number of inaccurate debt demands were distributed. A significant number of these vulnerable, low- income Australians that have been targeted are students.
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The public sector union is calling on the federal government to suspend its controversial Centrelink debt recovery system, warning the public will suffer as staff struggle to cope.
The CPSU says service standards have already dropped to unacceptable levels following thousands of job cuts in the Department of Human Services, with the latest scandal piling on more pressure.
Beleaguered Centrelink staff are bracing for a "perfect storm" of customer service problems in the coming weeks, heaping more misery on the welfare agency's millions of clients, according to the main workplace union.
The union says its members working on the controversial debt recovery scheme are reporting that nearly all the debts they are being asked to review turn out be bogus with cases, such as a demand for $9000 from a client who really owed just $90, pointing to a complete system failure.