Nearly half of the 57 million phone calls made to Centrelink last year went unanswered.
Nearly half of the 57 million phone calls made to Centrelink last year went unanswered. Photo: Bradley Kanaris
Nearly half of the 57 million phone calls made to Centrelink last year went unanswered, according to a new report by the Australian National Audit Office.

About 13.7 million calls did not even make it into the system after they were blocked or received a "busy signal".

Another estimated 12.9 million were simply "abandoned" as the callers tired of waiting to speak to an operator, the audit of the Department of Human Services' "SmartCentres" found.

Lengthy waits for Centrelink telephones to be answered is the No.1 complaint against the welfare agency from its customers, and the audit found the problem is worsening.

The auditors reported the "average" waiting time that Centrelink reported to the government - 16 minutes - did not reflect the true experience of many customers, 30 per cent of whom waited unanswered for 30 minutes or more before their inquiry was answered.

On the positive side, the Auditor-General's office acknowledged that the department was making progress in revamping its customer service and moving tens of millions of transactions each year online.

But the auditors questioned why the giant department could not follow the lead of other government agencies, like the Tax Office, and give callers a more realistic idea of how long they might be waiting.

"Of the 56.8 million calls made to Centrelink 1800 or 13 telephone numbers in 2013-14, 43.1 million calls were able to enter the network while 13.7 million calls were unable to enter the network, that is, the calls were blocked and the callers heard the 'busy' signal," the report says.

"Of the 43 million calls in 2013-14 that were able to enter the network, around 45 per cent were answered by a service officer and around a quarter were resolved in the interactive voice response system."

But the audit office estimated the remaining 30 per cent, about 12.9 million phone calls, were simply abandoned.

In its defence, Human Services said that it must work with the resources it is allocated and estimated it would need to hire 1000 new public servants, at an annual cost of $100 million, to bring average waiting times down to five minutes.

But the auditors found the department's performance did not stack up well against that of other departments.
"The current target does not provide a clear indication of the wait times Centrelink telephone customers can generally expect, due to the distribution of actual wait times around the 'average'. Centrelink customers also continue to experience high levels of call blocking and call abandonment, which can further impact on the customer experience," the report says. 20 May 2015

Centrelink is another corporation that is committing fraud against the people who rely on government welfare.

It's a REAL pity the corporate media does not report on this but rather focuses on 'dole cheats'.