19 February 2019 – Correction of inaccurate reporting in the Herald Sun

An article published in the Herald Sun on 19 February 2019 reported misleading information about the Department of Human Services’ online compliance system.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman reviewed the online compliance system, and confirmed that the system of calculation accurately captures the legislative and policy requirements.

The Ombudsman also found the system of calculation being used is comprehensive and confirmed it is entirely reasonable and appropriate to ask people to explain differences in data.

It is incorrect to say the department automatically sends out debt notices. Letters sent at the start of a compliance review ask the customer to engage online or call the department to confirm or update the income information held by Centrelink and the ATO.

No debt notice is issued until the customer has had the opportunity to assist with resolving the discrepancy. Even after a debt has been raised, a customer can update their details or provide more information to have the debt reassessed. A person with a debt can also ask for a formal review of the decision at any time. 

Our online system now makes it even easier for people to review and update their income details. We understand people may not have kept past payslips and may have difficulty contacting past employers. This is why we improved the process to allow customers to use bank statement records, which in most cases are available online and dating back seven years. If they are not available, a staff-assisted process is available.

The Herald Sun’s article doesn’t reflect the human support available to people when completing their review. We have a trained team handling these reviews which customers can reach directly by calling the number in their letter. We are also committed to working with people who have been paid more than they were entitled to so they understand why it happened and how to avoid it in future.