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Robodebt officials hit with conduct breach notices

More than a dozen public servants involved in the illegal robodebt scheme are under investigation for code of conduct breaches.


Generic image of Centrelink signage at the Prahran office in Melbourne. Image AAP

Bureaucrats being formally investigated for their role in the unlawful robodebt scheme have been served with formal notices for breaches of the public service code of conduct.


Australian Public Service Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer told a Senate estimates hearing 16 public servants were being investigated for breaches of the code for conduct in relation to the debt recovery scheme.


The referrals followed the findings of the robodebt royal commission, which was handed down in July.


Dr de Brouwer said investigations had started in all 16 cases and that formal notices had been handed out in about half of the referrals.


The notices outline the grounds and categories of the possible breach of the public service code of conduct.


The robodebt scheme ran from 2015 to 2019, which used annual tax office data to calculate average fortnightly earnings and automatically issue debt notices to welfare recipients.


Hundreds of thousands of Australians were caught up in the debacle, which illegally recovered more than $750 million and was linked to several suicides.


The almost 1000-page report into the scheme also contained a sealed section which recommended further charges against multiple people involved in rolling out robodebt.


Dr de Brouwer also confirmed the public service commission was carrying out about two dozen formal investigations into breaches of the code of conduct.


That amount includes the 16 bureaucrats involved with robodebt, as well as sidelined Home Affairs boss Michael Pezzullo, who was being investigated for his leaked text messages.


Dr de Brouwer said the number of formal inquiries was "well above the couple or so a year that has been the norm in recent years".


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