The Senate inquiry into the Centrelink debt recovery process has revealed that the Government is paying private debt collectors commission only to rake back potentially incorrect automated debts from former Centrelink recipients.
“I have to ask why is the Government paying private debt collectors commission only to retrieve Centrelink debts? Do they think it will result in more money being raked back? This might go a long way to explain the accounts we’ve heard of overzealous private debt collectors in pursuing potentially incorrect debts.
“The Department refused to answer how much commission was being paid, claiming potential Commercial in Confidence. I will be investigating why the Department thinks this is the case – the public deserve to know how much is being paid to private debt collectors to collect so called debts from struggling Australians.
“The Australian Taxation Office are using a fee based approach with debt collectors when pursuing debts, you have to ask why the Department of Human Services thought it was appropriate to operate on commission only, the Committee has asked DHS the reason for the different approach.
“Ever since the Government leaked private details of a recipient who spoke out to media, many recipients who have been hurt by the automated debt recovery feel too intimidated to speak out. I fear this will stop us from hearing about the continued problems with the program.
“If recipients are too intimidated to talk to media, I urge them to instead make a submission to the senate inquiry into the program; they will be protected by parliamentary privilege. I have sought this assurance from the Senate Clerk.
“I will continue to raise the flaws in this program and what that means for people in the community struggling to get by. The Government needs to immediately end this desperate money grab that is hurting so many”.