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Public service bosses missing on Centrelink's robo-debt

25 January 2017
Noel Towell
Canberra Times

Senior bosses at Centrelink are not taking responsibility for the welfare agency's "robo-debt" debacle and leaving their department's junior leaders to pick up the pieces, according to front line workers.

Centrelink staff have told their union, the CPSU, that waiting time for reviews of "debts" raised under the controversial data-matching compliance program have now blown out to 50 days when the the agency is demanding that the money is repaid in less than 28 days.

One union member says the Department of Human Service's freedom of information unit has been inundated with more than 200 requests for information about the "Online Compliance Intervention" program since it began in July 2016.

The latest internal dissent against the system comes as a fresh warning was issued on Tuesday about the possible consequences for vulnerable Australians of a government department demanding large sums of money accompanied by the threat of legal action.

The department's swipe last week at Centrelink workers who have spoken out publicly about the robo-debt crisis seems to have provoked a backlash, with furious public servants supplying comments to the union which has posted them on its website. 

Centrelink's media unit was contacted on Tuesday for comment on the latest staff comments and Fairfax has requested an interview with Human Services secretary Kathryn Campbell but the request was ignored.