31 May 2024

More public servants found to have breached APS code of conduct during Robodebt

| Chris Johnson
Join the conversation
Dr Gordon de Brouwer

APS Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer has updated parliament on the number of current and former public servants found in breach over Robodebt. Photo: File.

Another three names have been added to the list of those Commonwealth public servants who have been found to have breached the Australian Public Service code of conduct over their actions taken in relation to the illegal Robodebt scheme.

That brings the total to seven current or former public servants found to have breached the code, APS Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer has informed Senate Estimates.

Four of those seven are currently employed in the APS.

They have all been informed and issued with final determinations that their contributions to the Robodebt saga were found to be in breach of at least some parts of the code of conduct.

Updating the Senate on Thursday (30 May), Dr de Brouwer said agencies where the public servants in question are employed have been notified and counselled regarding what actions should be taken.

“Agencies have been provided with advice regarding an appropriate sanction and sanctions are being imposed or are in the process of being imposed,” he said.

READ ALSO Home Affairs must grasp a new strategic direction to improve image and capability, review finds

The Budget Estimates session also informed us that sanctions for those employees could be in the form of fines, demotions or reprimands, but no names have been released.

However, the commissioner added that enquiries over another seven public servants are continuing and should be determined by the end of June.

Only two of those seven remain employed in the APS.

Another public servant was finally determined not to have breached the code, while another’s role and actions did not meet the threshold for a breach.

A total of 16 current and former APS employees were referred to the commissioner for code of conduct scrutiny over the illegal scheme.

In the sealed section of its report, the Royal Commission into the scheme only referred current APS employees to the commissioner for possible sanction.

However, the Australian Public Service Commission also referred past serving public servants and even former agency heads to its centralised code of conduct mechanism.

An APSC statement issued in August notes that former employees were included to ensure equitable treatment.

Former employees were referred by their most recent agency heads, while former agency heads included in the list were referred by Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher following advice from Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Glyn Davis.

In the estimates hearing this week, Dr de Brouwer told senators he would likely be in a position to provide a public statement on all its findings within two months once all investigations are finalised.

“That statement will include a report from the Robodebt code taskforce on outcomes and on lessons learned,” he said.

“The commission is conducting investigations in accordance with the law, which requires procedural fairness for the individuals involved.

“We are mindful of the public’s expectations for accountability of public servants.”

READ ALSO Secretive department gets its laundry aired at Budget Estimates

The Robodedt automated debt recovery scheme was piloted in 2015 and fully rolled out between 2016 and 2019 by the Department of Human Services and its successor, Services Australia, with more than 470,000 false debts issued.

It caused extensive grief and trauma. Some recipients are reported to have taken their own lives over the debts.

It was officially scrapped in 2020, with the promise of paid debts being refunded in full.

It cost the Commonwealth $1.8 billion in settlement after the Federal Court ruled it a “massive failure in public administration”.

Following Labor’s federal election win in 2022, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wiped any debts still under review and established the Royal Commission.

Royal Commissioner Catherine Holmes delivered her final report to Governor-General David Hurley in July last year, recommending that civil action and criminal charges be pursued against key players in implementing and rolling out the scheme.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Is one of them Kathryn Campbell? She should never have been gifted her current job, at which she has performed miserably.

Stephen Saunders7:30 pm 31 May 24

“We ate mindful of the public’s expectations, and all the guilty parties can expect a thrashing with wet lettuce.”

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.