THE CENTRELINK ONLINE COMPLIANCE SYSTEM (ROBO DEBT) FABRICATES DEBT
The thousands of debt notices being served to Centrelink customers has left people angry, frustrated or frightened. The system that generates these letters is commonly referred to as robo-debt, but it is officially known as Online Compliance Intervention (OCI). The system is supposed to find “over-payments” to Centrelink customers, but the outrage shows that this program is nothing like the usual Centrelink actions.
While the government is perfectly happy with the system, many feel it is heavy-handed or even a flawed system. Some steps you can take to deal a Centrelink debt notice are explained briefly at the end of this article. However a public statement made by an anonymous Centrelink compliance officer shows that the system is not just flawed, it is corrupt and illegal. It does not discover debt, it FABRICATES DEBT.
HOW DOES THE ROBO-DEBT SYSTEM FABRICATE DEBTS?
GetUp has identified what they call the Five Frauds used by the system to rob Centrelink customers:
Doubling Income: A person's entire income from the same employer is doubled up or certain parts of their income are duplicated, like leave and termination payments.
Non-Assessable Income: Items are included as income that should not be counted, like expense reimbursements and some paid parental leave payments.
Fictitious Payments: The system is generating debts based on payments that Centrelink never made. It's even possible to have a debt claim larger than a person's total Centrelink payment.
False Recovery Fees: Recovery fees are regularly being applied when they shouldn't and can be much larger than the set fee of 10%.
Corrupted Review: Compliance officers are directed not to fix these errors, even when they have the evidence, and their work is rejected when they do. Even on appeal, errors will only be corrected if the person specifically identifies them, which can be nearly impossible.
If any bank or private firm used these practices they would be liable for criminal prosecution. How is it that this government's illegal actions can remain unchallenged? Is this government above the laws which the rest of us must obey? This must stop! Neither an individual's use of the Administrative Appeal Tribunal nor a class action can force the government to end this criminal policy. The only thing which will actually stop Centrelink in its tracks is a Judicial Review. Such a Review could get an injunction to stop Centrelink's actions or even overturn the decision to use their flawed software and demand all money collected be paid back.
SEE WHAT THE WHISTLE-BLOWER HAS WRITTEN ABOUT THE SYSTEM:
One Centrelink compliance officer has come forward anonymously to explain what is wrong with the system. This document is generally ignored in the public discussion of robo debt, but it is almost certainly the most revealing document about this vile fraud. The complete text of the officer’s statement it attached at the end of the article, but some of his most important points are these:
“Our system duplicates customer's incomes and then raises a debt claiming the customer declared nothing."
It is hard to see this as anything other than FRAUD.
"There are so many errors within the OCI process that a customer can never possibly guess at the reason they should appeal. If they do not spell it out we do not correct it and in many cases even if they do spell it out there are multiple errors and we only correct the ones the customer identifies."
To make a successful appeal within the Centrelink system a customer must have a full understanding of the complex way Centrelink records information. Since almost nobody except experienced officers understand exactly how the system works, customers are forced to lodge their appeal in the same way we play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, with our eyes closed.
"Within the organisation it is well known that there are errors in the program and compliance officers are directed to ignore incorrect debts without being permitted to correct them. When we report errors it falls on deaf ears or we are told that the issue already known and we must not make an attempt to fix the error or our work will be returned as wrong and we will have to cancel the corrections."
Centrelink Compliance Officers are FORBIDDEN to correct any errors they find. The whistle-blower explicitly states that it is impossible for officers to themselves change the OCI results for customers.
THE BIG PICTURE
Putting the pieces together, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that somebody dreamed up a fantastic plan to raise extra money for the Budget with three major components:
1) A software program which would guarantee that a debt is generated for virtually every Centrelink customer.
2) Since none of the clients would understand the system well enough to lodge an adequate appeal, anyone who did appeal would still be forced to pay something back into the system. Further, since many decent, law-abiding citizens would instinctively trust the government and Centrelink calculations (made by A COMUPTER!!) most would not even bother to appeal.
3) Make sure that long-time Centrelink employees were forbidden to correct the obvious mistakes.
This is not a simple party-political issue. Even Liberal and National Party voters should realize that no government by any party should be allowed to break the law and steal money from any citizen.
THE WHISTLE-BLOWER'S STATEMENT:
A PDF copy of the original document can be found here:
WHERE TO FIND HELP:
The Welfare Rights Centre recommends that even if you do not agree with your debt you should arrange a payment plan if you can. Your money will be returned if your appeal is successful.
On the myGov website you can request a specialist Centrelink officer to call within 7 days to explain the debt. You can also appeal your debt to a Centrelink Authorised Review Officer. Finally if unsuccessful you can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. All of these actions are free.
Those wishing to appeal their debt can contact the Welfare Rights Centre (SA) for free legal advice:
Phone: 8223 1338
The Law Society in South Australia can provide a referral to a lawyer who can assist your appeal:
Phone 8226 0200
National Welfare Rights Network has a helpful guide about Centrelinks debt system You can contact Michael Esposito:
Phone: 0422 072 146
You can also find help at the GetUp website: