​Human Services seeking STEM graduates to work on Centrelink, Medicare IT services

The Australian government department is recruiting 125 IT graduates to work on the systems that deliver payments across Centrelink, Medicare, and Child Support.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is on the hunt for 125 university graduates who have completed a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM)-related fields to join the troubled department in the wake of its Centrelink "robo-debt" fiasco.

DHS is looking to fill six-month positions across Canberra, Adelaide, and Brisbane in areas such as IT architecture, business analysis, design, system engineering, development, testing, and data analysis, with some participants to be offered permanent employment at the end of their half-year stint.

"What sets us apart is that our work touches the lives of nearly all Australians at some point, and we have the opportunity to make a real difference for people," DHS chief information security officer Narelle Devine said, encouraging female graduates to get involved with the program.

"The massive scale of our IT systems, exposure to diverse technologies, and access to world class training and development make DHS an excellent starting point for a rewarding ICT career."

In a statement, DHS touted the department's in-house IT operation as one of the largest in the southern hemisphere, as it supports the systems required to deliver over AU$172 billion in payments annually across Centrelink, Medicare, and Child Support.

DHS is currently in the process of overhauling Australia's 30-year-old payment system, which processes over AU$100 billion in Centrelink payments each year.

Labelled the biggest digital transformation the government has embarked on to date by Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge, the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) program is expected to take seven years to complete.

Centrelink has been in the spotlight after it emerged over the holiday season that the agency's new automated debt recovery system had letters demanding money repayment sent in error to welfare recipients in Australia.

DHS announced in December that it had implemented the online compliance system in July, and said it was finding approximately AU$4.5 million that had gone awry each day. With this, the federal government hopes to improve the nation's Budget by AU$2.1 billion over the next four years.

The new system automatically compares the income people declare to the Australian Taxation Office against income declared to Centrelink. When it detects a disparity, Centrelink automatically issues a debt notice, and that debt comes with a 10 percent recovery fee.

One large error in the Centrelink system is that it was incorrectly calculating a recipient's income, basing a recipient's fortnightly pay on their annual salary rather than taking a cumulative 26-week snapshot of what an individual was paid.

In a letter addressed to Tudge, acting national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) Michael Tull explained that Centrelink staff were under "extraordinary" stress from the volume of queries and complaints they have received as a result of the robo-debt fiasco.

"The debt crisis is a manifestation of a bigger issue for DHS -- systemic understaffing, under resourcing, and a failure to listen to staff and to draw on their expertise when designing systems," Tull said. "Our members tell us that these issues will not be solved until there is an increase in permanent and well-trained staff."

DHS has 125 roles available in the department's IT hubs located in Canberra, Adelaide, and Brisbane. Applications close on April 18, 2017 and applicants must have attained an Australian recognised bachelor or postgraduate degree in a STEM discipline on or after March 28, 2012.

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