The Department of Human Services (DHS) found itself in the spotlight last year after kicking off a data-matching program of work that saw it automatically issue debt notices to those in receipt of welfare payments through the country's Centrelink scheme.
The Online Compliance Intervention (OCI) program had automatically compared the income people declared to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) against income declared to Centrelink, and the debt notice -- along with a 10 percent recovery fee -- was subsequently issued when a disparity in government data was detected.
One large error in the system was that it was incorrectly calculating a recipient's income, basing a recipient's fortnightly pay on their annual salary rather than taking a cumulative 26-week snapshot of what an individual was paid.
Between November 2016 and March 2017, at least 200,000 people were affected by the system. During this period, the department sent approximately 20,000 letters per week generated by an automated system that came to be known colloquially as "robodebt".
The response from the Australian public was less than pleasant. Halting the system had been requested at length by the federal opposition, and a Senate Community Affairs References Committee reported to the government in June it had repeatedly heard from individuals that the OCI system had caused them feelings of anxiety, fear, and humiliation, and dealing with the system had been an incredibly stressful period of their lives.
But all of that aside, DHS acting deputy secretary of Integrity and Information Jason McNamara told the Finance and Public Administration References Committee on Friday the data-matching program went well.
"The department's view would