3 August 2009
The Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, today called for improvements to the delivery of an Australian Government scheme for compensating victims of deficient government advice, information or practices.
The Scheme for Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration (CDDA) allows Australian Government agencies to compensate, on a discretionary basis, individuals or groups who have suffered loss as a result of poor administration.
Professor McMillan explained that the CDDA scheme has an important role to play in providing a remedy to people who have received inaccurate advice from a government agency.
Professor McMillan, The Ombudsman saidIt is vitally important that this scheme is administered fairly and in line with its stated purpose of restoring claimants to the position they would have been in had there been no administrative error.
A great strength of this scheme is that it enables payment of compensation without the need for legal proceedings.
The CDDA scheme applies to more than 100 Australian Government agencies. The Ombudsman looked at the policies and practices of three sample service delivery agenciesthe Australian Taxation Office, the Child Support Agency and Centrelinkto identify how it might be improved. His recommendations included:
Professor John McMillan saidGovernment schemes can be highly complex, and people understandably rely on government agencies for accurate and timely advice on social support entitlements, child support and tax liabilities.
If the wrong advice is given, people rightly expect to be compensated for their loss.
Unfortunately, there can be a reluctance by government agencies to admit to error or to approve worthy claims. CDDA decision-making will be improved if there is a less defensive and legalistic approach by agencies to assessing claims.
A CDDA claimant believes that the Government has done the wrong thing by themthey have a right to complain and to have their complaint taken seriously and assessed fairly.
* providing greater visibility of the scheme, so that the public knows they can ask to be compensated for government error
* establishing an inter-departmental advisory or review panel to deal with disputed or exceptional CDDA claims and to play a best practice leadership role
* using the potential offered by information technology to improve case monitoring, provide support for decision-making and capture feedback
* dealing appropriately with administrative drift (needless delays) in finalising cases.
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