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Inquiry calls for Centrelink ‘robo-debt’ system to be put on hold

22 June 2017
Rohan Pearce

The report of a Senate inquiry has recommended that Centrelink pause its automated data-matching program designed to claw back welfare overpayments.

The system has been criticised both for its accuracy and the impact on welfare recipients. The report of the Senate’s Community Affairs Reference Committee, tabled last night, recommended that the so-called Online Compliance Intervention (OCI) “should be put on hold until all procedural fairness flaws are addressed” and a range of other recommendations implemented.


“A key concern raised throughout this inquiry, has been that the data-matchingprocess identifies income reporting discrepancies by comparing different sources ofinformation, that is, a person’s annual total income amount provided by the ATO, with the total fortnightly income amounts a person declares to the department, which was how the department calculated the income support payment a person received,” the report notes.

Under previous manual data-matching processes, the committee found, about a quarter of discrepancies were resolved, with information provided to Centrelink confirming that a recipient had been received the correct payment.

A dissenting report by Coalition senators acknowledged that the initial rollout of the OCI "should have received more robust planning and consideration of the impact and operation of increasingly moving to digital engagement" but rejected the claim that the system lacks procedural fairness.