NACC’s decision puts responsibility for Robodebt response back on government

The logo of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in Canberra, Monday, July 3, 2023. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING


The decision by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to not investigate potentially corrupt conduct by public servants administering Robodebt highlights the gaps in Australia’s accountability and anti-corruption regime.

  • The final report of the Robodebt Royal Commission was delayed in order to allow the Royal Commissioner to refer individuals to the NACC.
  • The NACC’s decision to not investigate these public officials means further details about how Robodebt happened and who was responsible may not come to light and preventative measures may not be implemented.
  • Gaps in government accountability in Australia include that:
    • The NACC can only hold public hearings under “exceptional circumstances”.
    • Whistleblowers in Australia are vulnerable to retaliation and prosecution, hampering anti-corruption investigations.
    • According to the APS Employee Census, 3,800 public servants witnessed potential corruption last year, and two-thirds of them did not report it.

“The NACC’s decision to not investigate Robodebt makes the Public Service Commission responsible for investigating these alleged wrongdoers and addressing the broader cultural problems exposed by the Royal Commission,” said Bill Browne, Director of the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Program.

“Australians will wonder why there is a disconnect between the Royal Commissioner, who delayed her report so she could refer potentially corrupt conduct, and the NACC, which decided that it was not in the public interest to investigate that conduct.

“The Robodebt Royal Commission exposed a dysfunctional culture among senior public servants, but senior public servants have continued to stonewall parliamentarians in Senate Estimates, miss deadlines to reply to questions and ignore or mishandle freedom of information requests.

“Transparency about how the NACC conducts its investigations and why it comes to the conclusions it does would increase public confidence in its decision-making. Public hearings provide open justice: they expose wrongdoing, increase public confidence in anti-corruption bodies, and deter others from engaging in corrupt conduct.

“Last year, thousands of public servants said they witnessed potential corruption – and most did not report it. The Government and Public Service Commission are responsible for the culture of the public service, and ensuring that whistleblowers feel comfortable making reports.

“The heavy workload for the NACC, including over 3,000 referrals and 21 active investigations, shows how important it is that the anti-corruption watchdog is properly resourced and has the powers it needs to do its work, including holding public hearings when they are in the public interest.

“It has been almost a year since the Robodebt Royal Commission handed down its report, and nine years since the illegal scheme began. Some of this country’s most vulnerable people had money taken from them unlawfully, with serious health, legal and financial ramifications – and the people responsible have faced few consequences.”

General Enquiries

Emily Bird Office Manager

02 6130 0530

Media Enquiries

David Barnott-Clement Media Advisor

0457 974 636

RSS Feed

Media Releases