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Taxpayer-funded evaluate that discovered ‘flaws’ in Robodebt scheme was once discontinued by way of Division of Human Products and services, royal fee informed

A taxpayer-funded exterior evaluate of the failed Robodebt scheme discovered “a large number of flaws” however a complete file was once by no means finished after the federal government stated it was once no longer required, a royal fee has heard.

Shane West, a spouse at consulting massive PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), stated in early 2017 then Division of Human Products and services (DHS) secretary Kathryn Campbell engaged the company to check the Coalition-era budget-savings program that turned into referred to as Robodebt.

Round that point, the Commonwealth ombudsman was once investigating the Centrelink debt restoration scheme after questions have been raised in regards to the legality of its central approach, “source of revenue averaging”.

The PwC contract was once price nearly $1 million.

Mr West informed the listening to the company “put really extensive time” into creating a 70-page detailed draft file however mid-year, the DHS stated it was once now not “required” and a “visible presentation” given to then-human products and services minister Alan Tudge would suffice.

He stated he does no longer recall how PwC was once knowledgeable the dept now not wanted the file or any reasoning supplied.

“We were not ready to seek out any [texts] or piece of email to that impact,” Mr West stated.

After receiving that route from the dept, he stated PwC ditched its investigation into the scheme totally.

Recommend helping Justin Greggery KC stated: “Undoubtedly, you will have to, because the lead at the mission, have long gone again to Kathryn Campbell and stated: ‘You’ve got paid for the file, we’ve got finished the paintings, why do not you wish to have it?'”

“No, we did not,” Mr West stated.

Commissioner Catherine Holmes requested: “You did not do the rest to substantiate with them [the department] that it didn’t wish to be delivered, you simply waited for them to pay the invoice and took that as affirmation?”

“No … my assumption, however I will’t recall … is there will have to had been a dialog between the dept and us,” he stated.

“It sort of feels an overly laissez-faire option to sporting out a freelance. Does PwC typically simply depend on a phrase that isn’t documented anyplace?” Commissioner Holmes requested.

Mr West answered: “I will’t talk for the company at huge, however…”

“Do you?” she requested.

“Infrequently,” Mr West stated.

Commissioner Holmes stated: “One conceivable view is that there is been a … nod and a wink, a ‘do not give us it, thank you’ [from DHS] someplace alongside the road, Mr West, you’ll see how a cynic would possibly marvel about that?”

Mr West stated: “I will, sure … however I can’t recall ever being supplied this kind of nod and a wink.”

Commissioner Holmes stated it was once “in reality outstanding” and “demanding situations credulity” that no person within the DHS ever “were given wind of the life” of the file, and, that PwC deserted it “with none documentation” of the way it came about.

“That is my recollection,” Mr West stated.

Evaluation discovered ‘room for growth’

The inquiry was once proven an intervening time abstract of the audit and Mr West agreed with Mr Greggery that PwC’s evaluation of the scheme was once “an overly deficient file card” for the dept.

“It was once woeful, wasn’t it?” Mr Greggery requested.

“I believe our view was once that there have been issues [in the scheme] that are meant to had been thought to be however were not,” Mr West stated.

“[We found] room for growth.”

Mr West later conceded PwC’s evaluate discovered the device had “a large number of flaws” and there was once “transparent proof … financial savings were not going to be completed”.

Catherine Holmes speaking into a microphone.
Commissioner Catherine Holmes SC has been protecting hearings in Brisbane. (Provided)

The fee was once additionally proven mins from a gathering between the DHS and PwC in March 2017, through which division officers instructed that “political complaint [of Robodebt] has misplaced steam” and the ombudsman’s file “will say sides of the methods are excellent”, a month sooner than it was once launched.

The fee heard that former senior DHS govt, Jason McNamara, informed PwC that the federal government “handiest cares in regards to the cash” and “does not care what they do with compliance to succeed in it [budget savings]”.

“Rather then the dept doing one thing politically foolish, they do not care,” the mins display Mr McNamara announcing.

‘We now have were given recommendation that it isn’t prison’

Former deputy secretary of social safety on the Division of Social Products and services (DSS), Nathan Williamson, has additionally given proof.

The inquiry has up to now heard a DSS legitimate asked exterior prison recommendation from legislation company Clayton Utz at the scheme in 2018, which discovered the usage of “source of revenue averaging” to boost welfare money owed was once illegal, nevertheless it was once left in draft shape and not acted on.

The scheme endured till November 2019, accusing masses of 1000’s of welfare recipients of owing cash to Centrelink.

Former department supervisor at DSS, Allyson Essex, informed the fee ultimate week that she briefed her boss, Mr Williamson, at the recommendation in August 2018 and raised considerations, announcing “I informed him … we’ve got gotten recommendation that it isn’t prison”.

She informed the fee, he answered: “It’s prison, it is in reality transparent that it is prison.”

Mr Williamson informed Friday’s listening to he does no longer recall that dialog with Ms Essex or being briefed at the recommendation on the time.

“That type of reaction does no longer sound like … the reaction I’d give. That isn’t my taste,” he stated.

Supply By way of https://www.abc.internet.au/information/2023-02-03/qld-robodebt-scheme-government-royal-commission-review-pwc/101900514