Centrelink’s controversial automated debt recovery service has fundamental flaws in its infrastructure and should be suspended until they have been addressed, according to a Senate committee dominated by the Labor and Greens parties.
The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs has claimed that the system has had a “profoundly negative impact on the lives of thousands of Australians” and is suffering mainly as a result of “a fundamental lack of procedural fairness”.
The automation of the debt recovery system in mid-2016 was greatly controversial and has resulted in a number of errors being made, with thousands of customers being incorrectly asked to repay debts. This isn’t the first negative feedback for the automated service, as a report by a Commonwealth Ombudsman also found that customers had been unfairly treated by the debt service.
The report went as far as to state that the flaws in the system ran so deep that the entire automated service had been “set up to fail”.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, who chaired the committee, called for more human oversight into the debt recovery system in order to minimise the impact of structural errors.
“The rest of the committee came away from this deeply distressed and concerned about how people have been affected by this,” Senator Siewert told the ABC.
“They knew they were sending out letters to people who didn’t have debts — they didn’t have a human checking them. There are a series of flaws that together show a lack of procedural fairness.”
A dissenting report into Centrelink by Coalition senators has rejected the need for a suspension of the program, but still admitted that there were some flaws in the system that could have been avoided during the establishment of the scheme.