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11.1.3 Media sensitive cases
220.127.116.11 — Income support cases which are likely to attract adverse media attention ('media-sensitive' cases) should be notified to the Branch Head, Income Support. Cases likely to attract media scrutiny would include those involving sizeable overpayment recovery action, or where a veteran's eligibility to receive payment of a pension or benefit has not been found to be sustainable, e.g. 'false veterans'. Referral of these cases to National Office will allow the circumstances of the case to be examined in anticipation of public or media interest.
18.104.22.168 — The information to be provided to National Office should include a brief summary of the circumstances of the case. This would include:
- the cause or origin of any overpayment, or the reason for the person's lack of eligibility for a pension or benefit
- any evidence which is suggestive of fraud
- any written advice from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions as to the likelihood of prosecution
- a copy of any related correspondence to the pensioner, and any response provided by the pensioner
- whether the pensioner has, or intends seeking, legal advice or the support of an ex-service organisation; and
- contact officer details.
22.214.171.124 — The assessment of whether an income support overpayment case, or a non-eligibility case, is sufficiently sensitive to warrant referral to National Office should include, but not be limited to, the following factors:
- The age and the health of the pensioner
- The monetary amount of the overpayment and the length of time over which it accrued. Overpayments which exceed $10,000 or which have accrued over a period of several years should be very carefully assessed. It is expected that overpayments in this category would be referred, unless there are other known factors that diminish the sensitivity of the case. These might include any existing communication, or agreement, with the pensioner regarding the cause of, and repayment, of the overpaid amount
- The cause of the overpayment, and the strength of any evidence which suggests that the overpayment arose through fraudulent behaviour
- Where the reason(s) for determining that a person is not eligible for a pension or benefit have been disputed by the person, or where the evidence for the decision is unclear or is open to different interpretation; and
- Whether the person has contacted any external party in relation to his/her case. External parties would include any media group, an ex-service organisation, a legal representative, or a Member of Parliament.
The assessment of whether cases are of sufficient sensitivity to be referred to National Office will require a considered judgement of all relevant factors of the case. Staff should have regard to the Department's Risk Management Policy, which acknowledges that all judgements involve some degree of risk. A balance should be sought between the risks associated with not taking action against possible fraudulent behaviour, against the cost of investigating and referring non-sensitive or marginal cases where the evidence of fraud is not persuasive.