"This is incompetence": Centrelink payment glitch costs Aussies thousands
Families on Centrelink have been left thousands of dollars out of pocket after a nationwide glitch on the website saw people inadvertently pay their debts several times over.
Department of Human Services said about 400 welfare recipients across the country ended up paying more than they owed after the site showed an error message during the payment process.
People who tried to make a payment for the second or third time unknowingly had their money withdrawn from their accounts with every failed attempt.
A Melbourne mother said she was down by more than $13,000 after trying to pay her debt multiple times in late July.
On Thursday, she was told the refund could take another week to arrive in her account.
“We owed $4,300 on our family tax benefit debt due to underestimation of our yearly income and tried to do the right thing by paying it immediately,” she told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
The woman said she logged on to the myGov portal to pay her debt.
“We put the credit card details in, pressed submit and it said the page has not been found – it didn’t say it had been processed or give us a receipt number. It just looked like it hadn’t worked,” she said.
“I did it again, and it was the same thing, it said ‘page not found’ and I thought it was an internet error and got no confirmation it had been processed. So I tried more times and my husband texted me and said, ‘Why did you pay it three times?'”
When she contacted Centrelink, the agency said “it’s a nationwide issue with IT systems with all payments that have been made” and that it can take up to two days before her overpayments show up in the system.
On Wednesday, a Centrelink representative called her to inform that the refunds of the two extra payments could take seven days to arrive, and that they still had no record of the third.
“The payment portal was taking money from people, in some instances people paying multiple times, because it looked like it doesn’t work the first time,” she said. “This is incompetence ... Not good enough at all.
“That’s money we need, we only have one income and a family of four, we can’t just have that amount in the ether missing for who knows how long.”
According to Fairfax, Centrelink identified and fixed the nationwide issue on August 1.
Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said by Thursday morning, around 100 out of about 400 affected recipients have been refunded.
“We’re deeply sorry to customers who experienced issues making payments to us last week,” Jongen said.
“We’re reimbursing all affected customers their repeat payments. We’ve started contacting them to let them know and provide support.
“People who have incurred costs associated with this issue should contact the department to discuss reimbursement.”