COWPER MP Luke Hartsuyker's refusal to be interviewed for a Four Corners report claiming to uncover widespread fraud in the job recruitment sector was duly noted on Monday night's ABC broadcast.
The Coffs Harbour based Assistant Minister for Employment, who oversees the Job Services Australia scheme, was unavailable yesterday to respond to claims Australian employment agencies routinely falsified documents, bumped-up hours and inflated the wages of prospective workers in order to cash-in on government grants.
Viewers were told of a tendency to "park" job seekers deemed too difficult to be put to work - letting them fester on unemployment benefits rather than providing the training and doing the leg-work to get them into the labour force - while still claiming government grants for job-hunting that had not been done.
It also cited a 2012 Department of Employment audit which found only 40% of fees paid to employment agencies were verifiable.
A spokesman for Mr Hartsuyker attributed the failures of the Job Services scheme to the previous Labor government's failed reforms.
He said each year the Department of Employment recovered about $10 million in incorrectly-claimed fees from providers, the majority of which were the result of errors on the providers' behalf.
"This figure does not reflect fraudulent activity but rather overpayments which were recouped by the department," he said.
"To put the $10 million in repayments in perspective, the total annual spend on employment services is around $1 billion.
"The $41 million (of false claims) mentioned by Four Corners referred to monies recovered over a number of years as a result of Labor's failed Provider Brokered Outcomes payment - which they had to abandon in 2012."
Mr Hartsuyker's office provided a copy of his official response to Four Corners, outlining the Federal LNP government's plan to reform the Job Services program in July this year.
"Labor in government deliberately restructured the employment services system to reward process over outcomes," he said.
"The end result was too many job seekers were churned through training for training's sake rather than helped into jobs.
"The new system will include more robust performance monitoring, reporting and quality assurance frameworks to safeguard against abuse.
"Providers will need to be certified against a new set of more rigorous quality standards to be eligible to deliver services into the future."
Mr Hartsuyker maintained the outsourcing of employment services - first introduced by the Coalition in 1998 - was a wise move that had saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
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