Thousands of field workers who rescued the 2016 Census after the online meltdown debacle are still owed up to $30 million in wages and out-of-pocket expenses.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has told told workers, many of whom are unemployed or are pensioners, that they will just have to wait for their money.
The bureau has been in damage control since its website crashed on Census night in August, destroying its plans for a move to a predominantly digital rather than paper-based census that had been intended to save $100 million.
About 15,000 casual "field officers" then had to pick up the pieces, distributing and collecting millions of old-fashioned paper Census forms in an effort that eventually gott the survey's completion rate up above 95 per cent.
But only a small minority have been paid for their efforts and many are still out-of-pocket after paying their own working expenses.
Supervisor Nora Stewart, who managed a team of eight field workers in the ACT and southern NSW, says seven of the group have still not been paid for their work or reimbursed for expenses.
She says she had to lend one of her group money so he could put petrol in his vehicle to get around dropping-off and collecting Census forms.
Her team also included 81-year-old Mick Nichols who worked through the bitter southern NSW winter assisted by his wife Helen who is in her seventies.
Mr Nichols was paid on Thursday after waiting two-and-a-half months for his money.
Ms Stewart believes the 15,000 field workers nationwide could be owed as much as $30 million.
The bureau told Fairfax that it was still processing the wage and expenses claims of the field officers and could not supply figures of what was owed.
Ms Stewart, a former public servant, said she was bitterly disappointed at the treatment of the field officers, whose work had effectively saved the 2016 Census.
"Many of these people are unemployed, under-employed or are on pensions and I feel bitterly disappointed by the way they have been treated," Ms Stewart said.
"It's the loss of faith in the ABS that for me is the worst thing about all of this.
"It was the field officers who did the hard yards in wet and freezing weather and not they've been told that the ABS hasn't decided when its going to pay them.
"I have friends who work at the ABS and they are decent people but they would never stand for being treated like this, never."
Ms Stewart has appealed to both the senior ranks of the ABS and to Minister for Small Business and Michael McCormack.
A spokesman for the bureau issued a statement in response to Fairfax's questions.
"The ABS continues to verify and process claims for additional hours worked and expenses submitted by Census Field Officers," the spokesman said.
"As this is still an ongoing process we are unable to provide specific figures relating to these claims.
"The ABS seeks to process claims as soon as possible."
The head of the Bureau of Statistics David Kalisch apologised last week for poor judgment and testing the patience of Australians during the 2016 census, and revealed that the failure of the digital system cost taxpayers $30 million. He will appear before a Senate inquiry into the census on Tuesday.