4 May 2018 – Correction of inaccurate reporting on A Current Affair

Channel Nine’s A Current Affair (ACA) story ‘Double standards’ (3 May 2018) incorrectly reports 20 per cent of debt letters issued by the Department of Human Services were false.

 We understand this refers to department’s online compliance system and strongly refute this claim.

 Letters initiated at the commencement of a compliance review are not debt letters.  To refer to them as debt letters is factually incorrect.  The letter asks the customer to engage online or call the department to  work through a discrepancy.  No debt notice is issued until the customer has had the opportunity to assist with resolving the discrepancy.

 As reported on record at recent Senate Estimates hearings, only 1.7 per cent of debt notices issued under this program were changed as a result of an administrative error by the department.

 The Commonwealth Ombudsman found that claims of a “20 per cent error rate” are false and the number of debts raised by the online compliance system is consistent with the previous manual process. The Ombudsman also found the system accurately calculates debts and confirmed it is reasonable and appropriate to ask people to explain differences in data.