Cyclone victim chased for $177
Disaster payments ‘a dog’s breakfast’ Costigan says
BOB Eden survived Cyclone Debbie with his two dogs Barnaby and Charlie and his sense of humour intact. But only just.
Last week Mr Eden received a letter from the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disabilities asking him to repay $177.07 he was “ineligible” to receive after he claimed the Immediate Hardship Assistance and Essential Services Hardship Assistance Grants.
Mr Eden managed to get off his boat just before the cyclone hit and was sleeping on a friend’s couch and in his car until arriving at the Jubilee Pocket PCYC cyclone recovery centre.
“I sat down with them and told them my story and they said ‘you are entitled to this, this and this. Sit down there we will take your details and we will fill out the forms’,” he said.
“All I did was to supply information under their guidance as to what I was entitled to.”
Mr Eden left the recovery centre with a plastic card to which $180 had been credited.
However the 65-year-old said it was useless as no ATMs were working because the entire Whitsundays was without power.
“(So) the next day I phoned in, spoke to the lady and the next day the money was in my account,” he said.
Nonetheless in the recent letter from the department, signed by chief financial officer Arthur O’Brien, Mr Eden was given 14 days to return the money and “no other legal action will be taken”.
Mr Eden contacted Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan, who said from the very beginning disaster payments had been managed badly.
“We have got people with under-payments, overpayments, no payments, late payments – it has been a dog’s breakfast,” Mr Costigan said.
The letter from the department told Mr Eden he may have “inadvertently applied for more than one payment”.
But he is convinced he has not been paid the same grant twice.
“I have checked my account and that is the only monies that have come from the government around that time frame. How could I have inadvertently applied for (it)?” he asked.
Mr Costigan said Cyclone Debbie was the first natural disaster in which electronic disaster payments were made.
“They never tested that procedure... It was going to be a cock up from the get go,” he said.
A spokesperson for the department said of the more than 72,800 payments distributed across all forms of assistance provided after Cyclone Debbie - which totalled more than $32 million - only 210 letters, or 0.003% of claims, had been sent out seeking reimbursement for overpayments.
“Overpayments that may have been caused by system or processing errors and overpayments deemed of a value that there is no cost benefit in attempting to recover, will not be recovered,“the spokesperson said.
Mr Eden meanwhile, said he would be refusing to pay the money demanded in his case back to the State Government.
FAULTY ACCOUNTS: Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan with Bob Eden and his dogs Barnaby and Charlie.