Centrelink urged to scale data checks

Summary:The country's national auditor is pushing Centrelink to produce new quality control reports that analyse the welfare and payments system on a national level.

The country's national auditor is pushing Centrelink to produce new quality control reports that analyse the welfare and payments system on a national level.

(Parkes NSW image by Amanda Slater,
CC BY-SA 2.0)

The results of an audit, released last week by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), show that Centrelink's Quality OnLine (QOL) project — which serves to check for errors in payments and processing activities by customer service agents — would be better served if pre-payment processing errors it detected could be viewed and analysed on a countrywide basis.

Centrelink's QOL serves as a risk-based analysis and quality assurance system that sits on top of the welfare agency's IT system to ensure that the right payment goes to the right person on the right day. Centrelink describes it as its "first point of checking" a payment procedure before it is processed.

Another series of check systems sits on top of QOL to ensure that the system is working properly.

The ANAO found that while QOL has worked well for quality control over the last decade, it could be refined and scaled to improve some of Centrelink's day-to-day payment procedures.

"While Centrelink's software for QOL provides a degree of functionality at the individual and office level that allows areas for improvement to be identified and targeted, QOL results are not regularly monitored and reported at a national level," the report read.

"Access to information about QOL's performance would support national-level decision-making about the operation of business integrity controls in Centrelink. However, the operation of the QOL software provides little scope for national-level monitoring, including reporting basic metrics (the number of QOL Checkers and the average time taken to complete a check), or identifying areas for systemic improvement."

Benefits from the national statistics push would include better trend mapping to see what procedures are being done incorrectly that would help train staff better.

"Access to better management information for QOL at the national level would enable Centrelink to focus on improving the performance of existing business processes with a view to reducing administrative error and maintaining, or improving, payment integrity outcomes to the benefit of customers," the auditors wrote.

The ANAO said that Centrelink has been presented with a real opportunity for change as it continues to integrate itself into the Department of Human Services which kicked off mid-last year.

Topics: Government, Government : AU


A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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