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.
"Staff are back to being a commodity that is being used to represent, excuse and justify abysmal management of a flawed system. I must praise the team leaders and TSOs [team support officers] who have and continue to guide us – a tremendous effort," wrote one worker.
"Also, the lower senior management who add value to the process.
"There needs to be responsibility taken by senior management regarding the accuracy and integrity of the [Online Compliance Intervention] systems.
"Every customer who is requested to pay a debt that doesn't exist, or who cannot be given an assured review outcome within a reasonable time, now over 50 days I believe, walks away with a negative image that adds to the impact of the system."
Another public servant from one of the giant department's IT units wrote that the data-matching effort was working as it was intended and the bogus and the crisis had been caused by a policy failure rather than any technical shortcomings.
"I can verify that while there are issues - none of them have occurred through ICT technical fault.
"This system works as 100 per cent to specification.
"This whole debacle is stemming from bad policy not our Online Compliance System."
An employee wrote that the lack of human oversight in the massively expanded data matching effort, which uses an automated system to compare a client's information given to the Tax Office against that provided to Centrelink, was to blame for many of the problems.
"There once were staff who were trained to do this work," they said.
"Debts were raised based on staff (human interaction) because these people knew our computer systems to prevent incorrect decisions being made."