Response to further claims about online compliance activity

Claims made today about the Department of Human Services’ online compliance activity do not accurately represent how the system works.

General Manager Hank Jongen said the system was designed to identify differences between Australian Taxation Office and Centrelink payment records, and was performing the task as intended.

“Matching records with the ATO is not new,” Mr Jongen said. “We have been doing this for many, many years in line with our legal obligation to protect the integrity of government outlays, and the requirement of customers to keep us informed with correct information about their circumstances.”

In relation to the five main allegations:

Doubling income
This is incorrect. We give those who receive a request for information an opportunity to review, confirm or change these details in the online system.

Non-assessable income
This is incorrect. Assessments are made to appropriately consider assessable and non-assessable income.

It’s important to note, Paid Parental Leave wasn’t considered as assessable income up until October 2016. So cases prior to this change are assessed under the legislation that was in place at the time.

Fictitious payments
This is incorrect. This is a very complex payment system and where there are particularly intricate cases we have in-built processes to involve an expert to resolve the case.

False recovery fees
This is incorrect. Fees are calculated based on the final assessment.

This was an error that was identified and rectified in the testing phase involving 1000 people—so was modified before the rollout of the system. This is normal process for such an implementation.

Corrupted review
This is incorrect. The system is designed to identify anomalies and these are sent to a staff member for review.

“The Online Compliance Intervention takes advantage of data from the ATO and when a mismatch between that data and the data reported to Centrelink is identified, the payment recipient is asked to clarify the information,” Mr Jongen said.

“In the past, staff did this work for the recipient. This was very time consuming and meant that a relatively small number of overpayments could be addressed.

“Some of our staff believe that intensive one-on-one management of recipients is always required. As with other online initiatives in Centrelink, this intensive support is still available for those recipients who need it and complex cases.

“Many recipients prefer to manage through an online system, in their own time, rather than dealing with a staff member. Also, some staff do not welcome technology driven change.

“We will continue to work with staff to explain how the system operates and the role they play.”