I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Water and the River Murray a question relating to SA water concessions.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Last month, it was reported that the state government was having some fairly severe issues with concessions, including verifying eligibility, which have resulted in continual overpayment of concessions over a five-year period.
Over the past five years, the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion, which administers the payments, has been attempting to rectify this issue, allegedly; however, the problem still remains, and they say they are now seeking to recoup overpayments.
SA Water is the largest provider of these concessions, and SA Water was quoted as saying that they are taking this matter seriously and 'will be raising it with DCSI'. A source has been quoted as saying that the bureaucrats keep telling the minister there is no problem but there is. It has been estimated by the software designers that around $50 million has been paid in concessions to ineligible recipients. My questions are:
1.Has SA Water spoken to DCSI?
2.Has the minister been briefed?
3.What actions have been taken to determine eligibility and recoup overpayment?
4.Why is this taking five years?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (16:12): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. I am advised that SA Water has not been made aware of any ineligible customers receiving concessions. SA Water receives data on customer eligibility from the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion, and its responsibility is for applying these concessions as advised to wastewater and water bills based on that information.
If issues have been identified with the eligibility of concessions customers—and I understand that investigation is happening at the moment—SA Water will work with the required agencies to determine and rectify any errors that are made plain to us, but at this stage I have no such advice.
The PRESIDENT: Supplementary question, the Hon. Ms Lensink.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:12): Is the minister aware of the number of people who are likely to be ineligible who have received payments and what the value of those would be?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (16:13): As I said, I have no such advice from DCSI. I believe and understand she asks the question in good faith, but I have no advice at the moment from DCSI on this so I can't make any comment.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:13): As a further supplementary, has the minister sought the advice or has he just not received it yet?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (16:13): For me to be able to stand here and say that I haven't received that advice does necessarily mean that I have requested any information on this matter. There is no advice to my agency, SA Water, from DCSI that would cast any light on the allegations the honourable member raises in her question.