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APPENDIX D: Data matching

Report under the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990

The Data-matching Program is governed by the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 (DMP Act). Under section 12 of the DMP Act, participating agencies are required to table reports in both Houses of Parliament. During 2015–16 the department ceased using the Data-matching Program to detect recipients at risk of overpayment. The department no longer undertakes any Data-matching Program reviews. As required by the legislation, the costs and benefits of the Data-matching Program are provided in this appendix.

The department continues to act as the Data Matching Agency (DMA), as defined in the legislation. The sole activity of the DMA in 2018–19 was to undertake Data-matching Program activities on behalf of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).

Replacement of the Data-matching Program

In 2016–17, the department changed its processes to address compliance risks previously covered by the DMP Act. This change brought the activity in line with our other data-matching activities and the Guidelines on data matching in Australian Government administration (voluntary data-matching guidelines), issued by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

Data-Matching Agency

The department continues to monitor the current operation of the program. This predominantly relates to our DMA role as we complete activities on behalf of DVA. This is undertaken to ensure compliance with the legislation.

The details of the results of DMA activities required under guideline 12 of the Schedule to the DMP Act are published in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs annual report 2018–19.

Table 98 below shows the number of residual matches completed for discrepancies identified in previous financial years.

Table 98: Results of discrepancies released for action in 2018–19

Discrepancies/cases

Number and percentage (where applicable)

Discrepancies which resulted in a notice under section 11 of the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 being sent(a)

0

Discrepancies which resulted in action being taken(b)

0

Cases in which action proceeded despite a dispute about the accuracy of the data(c)

0

Discrepancies which did not proceed to action after the individual was contacted(d)

0

Cases where an overpayment was identified(e)

0

Cases where recovery action was initiated(f)

1,571

Cases where the debt was fully recovered(g)

6,304

(a) Section 11 of the DMP Act requires that people be given written notice of any proposed action as a result of information gained through the program. People have 28 days to respond.

(b) Following the completion of a cycle, departments undertake further refinements before releasing the discrepancies for follow-up action. These refinements are to reduce the number of unproductive discrepancies that are released.

(c) In any year a small number of people challenge the accuracy of the information on which the proposed action is based—usually because they do not fully understand the conditions of eligibility for payment.

(d) There may be a number of cases where people are sent a notice of proposed action but the action does not proceed. In these cases the person or a third party such as an employer can provide details to show that the payments received were correct.

(e) The number of overpayment cases identified, including the number of debts waived.

(f) The number of cases where recovery action was commenced on a debt. The department recovers debts in two ways—either through withholding part of a recipient’s entitlement or through cash repayments.

(g) Recovery of a debt can take place over a number of years, so the number and value of debts raised in a year does not necessarily correspond to the number and value of recoveries.

Costs and benefits

This section sets out the savings and other benefits of the Data-matching Program. It includes details of direct savings in outlays and the actual direct costs of the program. See Direct cost–benefit summary for cost–benefit information.

Direct savings methodology

The program has three direct savings components:

  • downward variations in rate or stopping payments
  • raised debts
  • ceasing payments to new recipients for failure to comply with Tax File Number requirements.

As all Data-matching Program review activity has ceased, savings from the program are generated solely from new recipients failing to comply with Tax File Number requirements.

The program is also used to match details of former recipients of each assistance agency who owe a debt to the Australian Government. Detection of these recipients means that withholdings can be made from their current entitlement to assist in repaying their debt.

Direct savings achieved

In 2018–19, the Data-matching Program achieved $10 million in savings.

Direct cost methodology

Administrative costs

Administrative costs included computer and associated costs. The equipment used to run the program cycles has some ongoing administrative costs associated with computer hardware and software maintenance.

Salary costs

The program’s main salary costs were costs associated with:

  • managing and supporting the program within the department
  • the department’s network review activity, including management and coordination.
Direct cost–benefit summary

When the costs and benefits (direct savings) are compared, the net benefits of the program are significant. In 2018–19, the net benefit of the program was $9.3 million.

Table 99: Direct cost–benefit summary

2018–19 actual

Benefits(a)

$10,234,400

Costs

$935,700

Net benefits(b)

$9,298,700

Cost–benefit ratio(c)

1:10.9

(a) Net savings, including the effect of upward variations.

(b) Calculated by subtracting costs from benefits.

(c) Calculated by dividing benefits by costs.

Chronology

The events listed below include data-matching cycles run in accordance with the DMP Act and consultation with the OAIC over the period 2018–19.

  • 31 July 2018 Cycle 3/2018 commenced
  • 17 August 2018 Cycle 3/2018 completed
  • 17 October 2018 Cycle 4/2018 commenced
  • 8 November 2018 Cycle 4/2018 completed
  • 6 February 2019 Cycle 1/2019 commenced
  • 28 February 2019 Cycle 1/2019 completed
  • 30 April 2019 Cycle 2/2019 commenced
  • 24 May 2019 Cycle 2/2019 completed.