Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Woman hounded over $4000 MIQ bill for non-existent stay

An Ōpōtiki woman has been hounded by debt collectors for two months over a $4000 bill for an MIQ stay she never had.

The Government revealed yesterday it had failed to issue or collect invoices worth at least $36 million for MIQ stays.

Priscilla Drummond was first contacted on August 20 this year about owing $4050 for an MIQ stay.

Drummond was shocked and immediately set them straight that she had never stayed in an MIQ facility.

But then she started receiving calls and texts, at first from MBIE, and then the debt collection agency Credit Consultants on the Government agency’s behalf.

“From that day onwards it was just continuous phone calls and messages. I just ended up ignoring calls in the end.”

She estimated she received about a dozen calls and messages over two months.

Despite repeatedly telling them they had the wrong person, no one would believe her.

Last month, she received a letter advising she had until October 15 to pay.

Furious, Drummond picked up the phone again and after giving them her birth date, which didn’t match up with the one on their records, the communications have finally stopped.

But Drummond said it was an extremely frustrating and stressful situation to be put in.

She eventually worked out that the bill may have been intended for a relative with the same name who was from Australia but had stayed in MIQ.

However, she was still baffled as to why they hadn’t got her niece’s details before she left the hotel and was unsure how they had got her details instead.

When she revealed the possible family link to the debt collectors, they then asked her to find the relative’s details but Drummond didn’t think it was up to her to do their job.

Drummond said the whole process was badly managed and had caused unnecessary stress.

Joint head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Chris Bunny said it appeared to be a unique case given the individuals with the same name and address were related. He apologised for any confusion caused.

Bunny said an invoice was raised for a Priscilla Drummond at an Ōpōtiki address who stayed in MIQ in August last year.

The invoice and reminders were sent to that same address and in July this year the debt was handedto Credit Consultants.

Credit Consultants began tracing the individual given the little information they had and were advised by Drummond that the invoice would be for her niece and that she would pass the details onto her.

“We have raised the issue with Credit Consultants to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future,” Bunny said.

Newstalk ZB revealed yesterday that invoices for close to 14,400 people weren’t issued due to “incomplete or inaccurate [MIQ] data”.

Those people left managed isolation months ago and had not received bills, and there were about 7800 returnees for whom officials have not been able to figure out whether, or how much, they should be charged.

The $36m in unsent invoices represented more than a fifth of the almost $153m in invoices already issued to date.

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