The Australian Government has yet another embarrassing technology failure on its hands, thanks to a poorly designed and implemented IT system.
Local media has been awash with stories about the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) new data matching efforts going awry. DHS manages the country’s welfare payments system as Centrelink, handling everything from assistance to students for housing and study to aged pensions and supporting those with disabilities.
The new data matching program was supposed to find people who had been overpaid for one reason or another, either through honest mistakes or deliberate fraud, and ensure that the Government got the money back. Since July, over 200,000 notices have been sent as a result of an automated data matching process aimed at recovering billions of dollars in over-payments.
While the goals of the program are not unreasonable, the implementation has seen many people receiving notices for debts they do not owe, and being forced to repay debts that are in dispute. The full extent of the errors is substantial, but remains unclear.