Services Australia Exposed in Robodebt Deal Controversy


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Services Australia gave $3.6m extra work to sued robodebt collector

It has been revealed that Services Australia has awarded two major contract renewals to a debt collection company which has already been sued and ordered to pay misconduct penalties in other markets.

ARL Collect, a wholly owned subsidiary of private debt collection firm Panthera Finance Group, has been sued for harassing consumers and undermining their credit records.

The company then received deals – related to the since discontinued ‘robodebt’ scheme – totaling A$3.96 million (US$2.6 million) from Services Australia in August 2021. Official contract notifications have shown to be more than double the company’s previous contract with AUS. $1.65 million ($1.08 million) for the 12 months through June 30, 2021.

Read more: Australian PM calls for investigation into ‘robodebt’ scandal

The debt collection services contracts were in addition to A$3.3 million (US$2.1 million) awarded to ARL Collect in July 2019, four months before the government admitted illegal practices had taken place. place in connection with the debt collection program dubbed ‘robodebt’. ‘.

The system was used by Centrelink – the Services Australia agency responsible for making Social Security payments – to identify people who had received overpayments. He calculated people’s income over short periods of time and assumed that their income remained stable throughout the year, which led the government to illegally demand that more than 400,000 claimants pay off debts that did not exist or more than that. which was due.

UK Department for Education slammed for providing children’s data to betting companies

The UK Department for Education (DfE) has been reprimanded by the data protection regulator for allowing access to the credentials of around 28 million children, in breach of the Privacy Act data.

Between 2018 and 2020, a job screening company called Trustopia gained departmental access to a government database known as the Learning Records Service. This allowed Trustopia to display information on children aged 14 and over in order to perform age verification checks for gambling companies.

In a report by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the access granted was a breach of data protection law.

“No one needs to persuade that a database of student learning records used to help gambling companies is wrong,” said John Edwards, the UK’s Information Commissioner.

Read more: UK Department for Education faces penalties for data protection breach

Such a breach of the law would normally have resulted in a £10 million (US$11.6 million) fine, but the ICO did not want to put additional strain on the financial resources of public sector bodies.

During an ICO audit in 2020, it was found that the DfE failed to comply with data protection rules. The report says the department has “no formal proactive oversight” of information governance, data protection and risk management. Some 139 recommendations were subsequently made to the department.

UK and Japan join forces for digital government

The UK has signed an agreement with Japan to cooperate and strengthen mutual digital government transformation.

The Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) aims to link the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Digital Agency of Japan, facilitating a dialogue covering knowledge and strategy in all aspects of digital government initiatives within the public sector.

Part of the deal involves digital teams from both countries exchanging best practices, training civil servants and building technical capacity across government. The UK and Japan will also work together to develop ways to make public procurement and spending more efficient.

“By sharing our expertise in areas such as the digital transformation of government, we seek to support each other to deliver better services and unlock greater opportunities for our citizens and businesses,” said Jeremy Quin, UK Cabinet Minister Office and Paymaster General.

quin attended the signing ceremony remotely. He described the UK and Japan as “two of the largest and most advanced economies in the world, with thriving tech sectors and clear ambitions to become global digital leaders”.

At the signing in Tokyo, the UK government delegation from GDS, including CEO Tom Read, was present in person.

Kono Taro, Japan’s Minister for Digital Transformation, said: “We are pleased to welcome the GDS delegation as we have learned from the UK’s experience in implementing our own digital government initiatives, such as creating of the Digital Agency.

Read more: UK government outlines skills challenges in digital transformation plan

The Japanese Ministry of Defense will play a greater role in technological research

Japan plans to increase its defense ministry’s involvement in advanced technology research to strengthen the country’s defense capabilities.

The policy could be included in the country’s three main defense and national security documents, which are due to be updated later this year.

The Ministry of Industry currently supports public-private partnerships in advanced technology research, but according to Yasukazu Hamada, Japan’s Defense Minister, the government “wants[s] to create a really useful system for the defense (of Japan)”.

Read more: Japan launches new vaccine research center to accelerate future pandemic response

At a meeting of government experts last month, Hamada said this could be achieved by “deepening cooperation with other government agencies and ministries, including through a system that allows researchers from the Ministry of It is forbidden to join each research project”.

Japanese government officials have meanwhile put forward proposals to merge private sector research teams and the country’s acquisition, technology and logistics agency.

These teams would be established outside universities in order to protect defense secrets and information management. Their aim would be to strengthen cooperation between industry, government and academia in the areas of defense technology, research and development.

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