A key government lawyer involved in the controversial Robodebt scheme has resigned.

Former chief counsel at the Department of Human Services Annette Musolino has resigned following revelations of her consulting role with a firm that provides legal advice to government departments. 

Musolino's resignation was confirmed after media inquiries into her activities at Allygroup, a Canberra-based firm that offers legal services to government bodies.

Musolino had been serving as a contractor for Allygroup while on leave from her position as Chief Operating Officer at Services Australia. 

The resignation follows a critical report by the Robodebt Royal Commission nearly a year ago, which accused Musolino of playing along in a “game of hide-and-seek” regarding external legal advice. 

The commission found that Musolino withheld information from her superiors about the legal risks associated with income averaging, which was a central aspect of the Robodebt scheme. 

The report alleged that Musolino avoided providing independent legal advice to prevent confirming the unlawfulness of income averaging, which could have had severe professional consequences for Department of Human Services (DHS) executives.

Musolino was also involved in the legal sign-off for releasing personal information to the media about Robodebt victims who had criticised the scheme. 

Former Human Services Minister Alan Tudge was found to have utilised Musolino's authority to disclose personal details from Centrelink records of those who had complained about their debt.

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) recently found that seven public servants breached the code of conduct in relation to their involvement with Robodebt. 

First Assistant Commissioner for the Code of Conduct Taskforce, Jamie Lowe, revealed at a parliamentary committee hearing that six out of sixteen public servants referred for investigation remain in the public service. 

“Four people have already had sanctions imposed against them. They are current public servants. Of the remaining seven matters, two individuals remain with the Public Service,” Lowe stated.

Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer highlighted that investigations into the remaining public servants are ongoing, with a final report expected in the coming months. 

“Once all the 16 investigations have concluded, I will provide a public statement on the outcomes, and I anticipate that this will be in the next month or so,” he told the Senate Committee.

The Robodebt scheme, implemented between 2016 and 2019, incorrectly issued more than 470,000 debt notices by averaging welfare recipients' incomes over a year, leading to significant distress and trauma. 

Some recipients reportedly took their own lives due to the inaccurate debts. The scheme was scrapped in 2020, and the government committed to refunding the paid debts, which amounted to $1.8 billion following a Federal Court ruling that deemed the scheme a “massive failure in public administration”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese established the Royal Commission after the federal election in 2022. 

The commission's final report, delivered in July last year by Commissioner Catherine Holmes, recommended civil and criminal actions against those responsible for the scheme's implementation and execution.

Professor Richard Mulgan, an expert in public sector ethics, has emphasised the need for cultural reform within the Australian Public Service (APS). 

His analysis of the Robodebt Royal Commission's findings pointed out that the weaknesses leading to the scheme's failure remain entrenched in the APS. He has outlined ten lessons (PDF) for public servants, stressing the importance of lawfulness, truthfulness, accurate record-keeping, and a balanced approach between responsiveness to ministers and independence from them.