The Australian Taxation Office had 1160 staff engaged in administering the JobKeeper scheme that resulted in an average of 3.6 million individuals receiving monthly payments in the original scheme, according to a performance audit report recently released by the Australian National Audit Office.
More than one million entities had applications processed by the tax office team, the ANAO report says, with almost $89 billion in JobKeeper being made.
JobKeeper payments were administered effectively by the tax office overall, the report says, with some evidence of glitches across the compliance program run by the revenue authority.
“The ATO identified payment risks, developed compliance strategies and, with some exceptions, demonstrated that key compliance measures were implemented largely as intended,” the report states.
“A more structured approach for documenting the reasons for exercising discretion on JobKeeper overpayments would have provided more transparency and accountability for the use of public funds.”
The ANAO’s performance audit found that there had been problems in the initial period of implementing JobKeeper with the application form that business owners needed to fill in to help the tax office determine eligibility.
“For the original period of the scheme, the ATO did not capture all relevant details in the JobKeeper application form about the decline in turnover test, impacting on its subsequent compliance activities,” the report says.
“More granular information was added to the application form for the JobKeeper extension period.”
The ANAO’s audit team found that the tax office learned from earlier implementation hiccups when JobKeeper was extended, and payment amounts changed.
“Payment amounts were calculated correctly by the ATO, taking into account the number of employees declared by the applicant and the relevant JobKeeper payment rate at different periods of the scheme,” the report says.
The ANAO provided some general guidance to the public service on how schemes that are implemented quickly should be administered including reflection on managing risks and ensuring that governance processes enable a department to identify and then properly manage a program of emergency payments in what is a fluid environment.
Exercising discretion in giving people payments comes in for special attention.
“To provide transparency and accountability for the use of public funds, entities should ensure that where available discretion is exercised, the reasons for decisions are clearly documented including in relation to any guidance material prepared by the entity,” the report states.