A man walks into a Centrelink, part of the Australian government's department of human services where job seekers search for employment, in a Sydney suburb, August 7, 2014. Reuters/Jason Reed

Centrelink staff has come together to raise their voices against the Department of Human Services’ inconsistent data system. They say the department did not pay heed to their warnings that the system contained issues that needed to be fixed.

The Centrelink debt recovery system has been highly criticised for sending out incorrect notices to thousands of Australians since July 2016. Numerous welfare recipients have been accused of owing thousands of dollars.

An open letter, which acknowledges the “unfairness” of the system, was published by the Community and Public Sector Union today. The group comprises of several unionised departmental staff.

"We need to tell you that we see your pain and acknowledge your fear. We know you are angry and we are too. We know that the people of Australia deserve better," the open letter states. "We know that the automated debt notices are unfair, unjust and callous. We acknowledge that in a great many cases, they are not your debts. Many of us warned the Department of Human Services that the debt system wouldn’t work. Despite our combined hundreds of years’ experience in welfare systems, the department is still not listening."

As many as 232,000 letters were sent out by Centrelink’s computer between July and December of last year asking recipients that they log on to a website and confirm/update their income history. Of these, approximately 169,000 did so. According to Fairfax Media (via Brisbane Times), an email from the office of Human Services Minister Alan Tudge revealed that the remaining 63,000 – who did not log on and confirmed/updated their income history – were not issued debt notices. The email added that these cases "are still active and in progress or require further review."

However, according to a whistleblower, a debt notice was issued to a recipient after the staff evaluated the findings of the machine. In this case, the whistleblower said, the staff were instructed to not rectify the errors of the automatically generated notices – but to let them through. In response, Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said these claims "do not accurately represent how the system works.”