Robodebt report released

The Senate has released its scathing report on the Department of Social Security error ridden debt determination and collection system.

 

The report, "Design, scope, cost-benefit analysis, contracts awarded and implementation associated with the Better Management of the Social Welfare System initiative" contains 21 recommendations and calls on the Government to put a halt to debt creation and chasing until systems and processes are fixed.

 

The main recommendations of the report include:

 

Recommendation 1 The Online Compliance Intervention (OCI) program should be put on hold until all procedural fairness flaws are addressed and should only be continued in its new form after the new One Touch Payroll system is implemented in 2018.

 

Recommendation 3 All people who have had a debt amount determined through the use of income averaging should have their debt amounts re-assessed immediately by a team of departmental officers with specialist knowledge of the Online Compliance Intervention program, using accurate income data sourced from employers.

 

Recommendation 4 All data-matching guidelines and protocols be adhered to... This will require the department to halt the Online Compliance Intervention process while steps are taken to ensure compliance with all mandatory and voluntary provisions.

 

Recommendation 6 The department resume full responsibility for calculating verifiable debts (including manual checking) relating to income support overpayments, which are based on actual fortnightly earnings and not an assumed average.

 

Recommendation 7 The department review all debt cases where the 10 per cent recovery fee was automatically imposed, and in line with procedural fairness, allow each person a fully-informed opportunity to apply to have the debt recovery fee waived.

 

Recommendation 14 Clear and comprehensive advice on the ability to seek an extension of time to provide income documentation is made available to all Online Compliance Intervention-impacted individuals.

 

Recommendation 19 The department ensures an independent review of internal and external debt collection practices is undertaken, to ensure all procedures are adhering to industry standards, such as the suspension of debt collection where debt liability is disputed, and the provision of accurate and relevant information to debtors.

 

The Minister for Human Services, Mr Alan Tudge is yet to respond to the report.

 

22 June 2016.