It looks like the Department of Human Services (DHS) might have been caught out in a lie, if a recent job ad we spotted is anything to go by.

The advertisement, posted by recruitment agency Chandler Macleod, called for applications for multiple “Debt Recovery Officers” for its “Federal Government Client”. The ad strongly suggests Centrelink debt recovery officers are given set targets.

It’s no secret that Chandler Macleod has been recruiting staff for the department: since 2017, DHS has awarded the agency several labour hire contracts, including one in 2017-18 worth $226 million.

The successful applicant would be required to “raise debts and negotiate suitable recovery arrangements for customers and organisations”, and “research and examine evidence from customers and third parties for the purpose of assessing health and welfare payments”.

Notably, the ad says applicants must be able to “work towards and reach daily KPI’s and targets”. 

Chandler Macleod wouldn’t confirm to Crikey whether the ad was made on behalf of the DHS.

But if mention of assessing health and welfare payments wasn’t clear enough, the ad is also almost identical to another post by Chandler Macleod, which explicitly names the DHS. 

The DHS has long maintained that it doesn’t set its debt recovery staff strict targets, even after former compliance officers came forward in August, claiming team leaders demanded “a minimum of 15 debts raised a week by each person”. 

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A photo of a whiteboard taken inside one of Centrelink’s Melbourne debt-raising offices listed individual staff alongside figures showing how many debt closures they had scored.

(Image: Nine News)

DHS general manager Hank Jongen told Crikey in a statement that the department did not set targets for compliance staff on the outcome or number of debts, but also said: “Performance measures are a fundamental part of any job and we expect the completion of debt raising and recovery action to occur efficiently and effectively taking into account relative experience of staff and the individual circumstances of those owing money.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey