Revenue NSW – The lawfulness of its garnishee order process report tabled in Parliament

30 Apr 2024

The Ombudsman’s special report Revenue NSW – The lawfulness of its garnishee order process has been tabled in Parliament today.

The report follows the Ombudsman’s investigation of Revenue NSW’s conduct in administering its garnishee order system to recover unpaid fines and other debts due to the State.

This investigation concludes a lengthy period of scrutiny of the garnishee order system by the Ombudsman, since at least 2016.

The Ombudsman has made findings to the effect that Revenue NSW’s conduct in using the garnishee order system was contrary to law until March 2019, and wrong until March 2022.

During the investigation, Revenue NSW obtained advice from the NSW Solicitor General. That advice has confirmed that the version of the garnishee order system that is now in place (and has been in place since May 2022) for the recovery of overdue fines is compliant with the Fines Act 1996.

Revenue NSW has advised that it ceased using the garnishee order to recover any other State debts in 2020.

The Ombudsman has made a number of recommendations to Revenue NSW. These include providing better information to debtors, and improving safeguards to ensure that ‘protected amounts’ are left in bank accounts after garnishee action.

“There are lessons for all public sector agencies from our investigation of Revenue NSW,” said NSW Ombudsman, Paul Miller.

“In particular, when agencies are thinking about introducing automation technology to assist in the performance of their functions, whether that involves Artificial Intelligence or otherwise, it is imperative that they seek relevant legal advice and involve legal experts in the design and implementation process," said Mr Miller.

Further guidance to agencies on the legal issues associated with adopting automation technologies was provided by the NSW Ombudsman in its 2021 report, The new machinery of government, using machine technology in administrative decision-making.

Download report.