Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman Richard Glenn today released a report into the Department of Human Services – Centrelink’s (DHS) implementation of the automated debt system known as the Online Compliance Intervention (OCI).

‘We found there were issues with the usability and transparency of the system. There were deficiencies in DHS’ service delivery and communication to customers and staff when implementing the system. These issues affected the quality of decisions made by the OCI. Many of these problems could have been reduced through better project planning, system testing and risk management,’ Mr Glenn said.

Since the Ombudsman’s office began its investigation in January 2017, DHS has made positive changes to the system, in response to the office’s feedback.

‘However more improvements are needed to ensure the system reflects good public administration,’ Mr Glenn said.

The Ombudsman’s office made recommendations in the report about clearer letters and system messaging to customers, more help for customers when gathering income information, improving service delivery and communication, more assistance and support for vulnerable customers and reviewing automated recovery fee decisions.

DHS and the Department of Social Services (DSS), which is responsible for the relevant legislation and policy, responded positively to the Ombudsman’s investigation, agreeing to all recommendations.

Mr Glenn said the Ombudsman’s office would continue to work closely with DHS and DSS to monitor the implementation of the recommendations in this report. He also acknowledged DHS’ assistance during the investigation.

The Ombudsman will make no further comment on the report.