The Northern Territory may not recover millions in errant superannuation over payments to public sector workers, a scathing auditor-general report has found.
In December last year, NT’s Department of Corporate and Information Services (DCIS) and Commissioner for Public Employment (CPE) revealed millions of dollars in under and over payments to public sector employees over a decade.
Citing a “misinterpretation” of tax legislation and coding errors, DCIS said about 57,000 current and former employees had been underpaid about $30 million in super entitlements, while about 415 workers were overpaid about $7.1 million.
A NT Auditor-General report tabled in NT parliament late last week found it was “uncertain” whether any of the overpaid millions will be recovered, while auditors said they were “unable to conclude” whether current payroll processes are accurate or operating effectively.
“It is evident from the number of errors identified during this audit that since 2009, there has been no person/position in the Northern Territory Government with responsibility for ensuring superannuation guarantee amounts have been paid correctly across the Northern Territory Public Sector,” NT audit-general Julie Crisp wrote.
“No-one that I or my Authorised Auditors have spoken to have stated that they were specifically responsible for ensuring superannuation was being paid in accordance with applicable legislation.”
Auditors have now recommended new capability be created within the NT government to ensure superannuation payments are correct, and a wide ranging review of salary codes across the territory’s public sector.
The territory stopped trying to recover the super over payments –paid mostly to medical officers– after the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation (ASMOF) initiated legal proceedings earlier this year.
“Accordingly, it is uncertain as to how much of the $7.1 million will be recovered, if any,” Crisp said.
The five-month audit identified six areas of employees underpaid super entitlements, mostly in cases where payments were due in relation to entitlements and loadings.
About 53,000 staff were underpaid superannuation on leave loading and penalties in lieu of leave loading, while a smaller batch of workers were underpaid super on parental leave.
However, the audit flagged there are further cases or circumstances that require review or manual calculation.
Most worryingly, Crisp concluded there could still be a range of systemic issues in territory payroll processes.
The audit was not able to conclude that the territory is paying workers correct super entitlements, or whether the quantum of underpayments and over-payments so far is correct.