Wednesday, 5 April 2017
The Canberra Times, 29 March 2017:
Centrelink hit at least 21,000 families with bogus Family Tax Benefit debts last year, the federal government has conceded.
The welfare agency sent 65,000 demands in November 2016 to repay money received through the family assistance payment but about 21,400 of the families hit with the debt notices were able to prove they owed Centrelink nothing.
Centrelink's parent department, Human Services, blames the error rate of at least 33 per cent on its clients' failure to "engage" and says it has already improved its efforts to get in touch with recipients.
But Labor is scathing of the latest debt recovery revelation, saying something is "terribly wrong" at Centrelink and "hardworking, honest Australians" have been "intimidated" into handing over their money.
The true rate of bogus debts could be higher than the official 33 per cent because the Human Services does not record or disclose how many families simply paid the money to get Centrelink off their backs or lacked the documentation to fight the debt notices.
The Family Tax Benefit recovery effort is a separate process to the controversial 'robo-debt' data-matching scheme which has mired Centrelink in controversy for several months….
…65,000 debt notices had to be raised in November 2016," Human Services said.
"Of these debt notices, 33 per cent were then changed to zero dollars as the individual responded with further information once they had received the debt notice and a reassessment was able to be undertaken."
The department also noted the rate of bogus FTB debts dwarfed that of robo-debt…..