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Govt rejects damning report on DHS' robodebt program

21 June 2017
Allie Coyne
IT News

The federal government has rejected a damning report into the Department of Human Services' 'robodebt' program that recommended it be immediately and indefinitely halted.


In its report, the Labor, Greens and independent contingent of the committee - making up the majority - was heavily critical of the program, which it said should be immediately put on hold until issues can be addressed and the report's 21 recommendations can be implemented.

Any subsequent redesigned system must be subject to a risk assessment - which the robodebt program was not - before being put into production, and anyone subject to either the new or old system should be provided the data that was used to calculate their debt, the senators wrote.

The committee also said that all those who had been assessed under the OCI should have their debt amounts immediately reassessed by a team of specialist officers using "accurate" income data.

It made a list of other recommendations on how suspected debts raised under the OCI are communicated, reviewed, and calculated, as well as on exclusion criteria, to address highly public usability and transparency issues.

However, the committee's four government senators argued DHS had already made tweaks to the system that addressed many of the community's concerns. The agency is planning to expand the program, and has committed to manually checking discrepancies before letters are sent out.

They admitted that the initial rollout of the program last year lacked proper "robust planning and consideration of the impact and operation of increasingly moving to digital engagement", and that individuals weren't provided enough information upon receiving a debt notice.


They largely pointed to an April Ombudsman's report that found the technology underpinning the program was sound, but the department had been "deficient" in its delivery and communication of its efforts.

They also claimed that the #notmydebt online movement against the program was "aimed solely at scoring political points and inflaming the situation rather than offering practical assistance in resolving the issues raised".