Nicholas McCallum            
  • The Department of Human Services spent more than half-a-million dollars of taxpayer money fighting a $6000 child support case even though department bosses knew their bid was likely to fail.
  •  Officials in the Child Support Agency have spent over $500,000 since August 2011, fighting the case against the man known as “DT”, due to Family Court rules that suppress party identities, Fairfax reports.
  • The money was spent despite public servants within the department, which covers Centrelink and the Child Support Agency, allegedly breaking the law in the man’s case and the department’s defence being on shaky legal ground.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon described the case a “scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money” to protect bureaucrats within the department.

“This is bureaucracy gone mad and now they’re refusing to answer how much has been involved,” Senator Xenophon was quoted as saying.

“Taxpayers should expect a better response than this, they are hiding behind confidentiality and it seems a cowardly way to avoid accountability.

“This seems to be a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money for no good effect other than to protect the butt of the department.”

DHS has been ordered to hand over documents relating to the case to the Australian information watchdog, along with other briefs prepared for the minister, but the department refused.

Instead, the DHS has hired law firm Clayton Utz to fight the Australian Privacy Commission’s decision at greater cost to taxpayers.

Human Services, Australia’s largest government department, refused to specify how much was being spent on its legal defence but a spokesperson said it was justified spending the money to keep documents suppressed.

“Matters are generally appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal where the decision being appealed contains an error of fact or an error of law,” the spokesman said.

The department would not provide further comment on the matter nor how much money had been spent on the case since April this year.

The Australian Information Commissioner has criticised the DHS for being an organisation obsessed with process that has defers to “legalese” over plain English and has become increasingly closed off from its duty to share information. 

Source: Canberra Times Author: Nicholas McCallum, Approving editor: Martin Zavan

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