In the past three years, the Australian government has recovered more than $41 million that had been fraudulently claimed by private employment agencies.
These for-profit employment agencies were found to have submitted forged and doctored records and lodged inflated fee claims. One source, a former agency employee, told ABC’s Four Corners that they had seen “thousands” of jobseeker records modified by the agency to support suspicious claims against the taxpayer.
"There are incentives to be involved in sharp practices from a financial and performance perspective," another source stated. “We had to do the same thing [because] everyone was doing it. The government does not want to expose the whole industry.”
The Job Services Australia scheme costs Australia on average a substantial $1.3 billion a year. The government contracts employment agencies to assist the unemployed in finding paid work. Yet it has been estimated that only 10% of people who use agency services actually experience a better chance of getting employment.
A top-level inquiry made into just one area of the fee claims by private employment agencies revealed that only 40% of claims made by agencies had either solid evidence or client testimony to corroborate them.
A Sydney Morning Herald investigation found that the Catholic Church’s employment arm had systematically defrauded the scheme, as up to 70% of the jobs Catholic Care claimed to have assisted jobseekers in getting were actually found by the jobseekers themselves.
Despite the many whistleblowers who have revealed rorting in private employment agencies, the government has declined to detail any instances where it has sanctioned any agency acting under the Job Services Australia scheme.
The reclamation department of the government does not prevent agencies from making fraudulent claims. It only reclaims money it has identified as being the result of rorting.
Jobs Australia, a not-for-profit organisation, said: "With rising unemployment, Jobs Australia believes there needs to be a more flexible arrangement that is firmly focused on getting people back into work — but also with strong checks and balances."
Investigators discovered that a departmental official had clearly and deliberately told the private employment agency that it could still collect fees for services that the government knew had never been delivered.
Another source said the scheme is being routinely "optimised" with blatant disregard for jobseekers.
Although Tony Abbott’s government had made changes to the scheme that will be put into effect later this year, the changes will likely have a small to non-existent effect.
The overall unemployment rate has increased from 5.9% in January last year to 6.25% last month.
The youth (15-24) unemployment rate is more than double the overall rate at approximately 15%, an increase of more than 30% in two years.
There are more unemployed people than job vacancies.
It is clear that young people are facing an unemployment crisis that the government has no strategic or effective plan to fix.
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