A government agency has botched superannuation benefit payments spanning a decade, affecting more than 56,000 employees who are owed tens and millions of dollars.
The Northern Territory government owes about $39.5 million in superannuation contributions to the majority of current and past workers affected, according to its FY20 financial report. About 415 employees have been overpaid an estimated $7.1 million.
The NT government flagged the bungle in December 2019 as a result of misinterpreting tax legislation and coding errors.
The issues came to light after the Australian Taxation Office published advice relating to the application of superannuation guarantee (SG) to recreation leave loading, which then prompted the Department of Corporate and Information Services to review superannuation payments that ultimately led to the errors.
News outlet for the public sector The Mandarin at the time estimated that about $30 million was owed, comprising $20 million in underpayments and $10 million worth of interest.
Between January and June 2020, an audit was conducted to investigate the matter. In late October, Auditor-General for the Northern Territory Julie Crisp tabled the findings in parliament and blamed the lack of oversight for the errors.
She wrote: “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 in accordance with superannuation legislation.”
“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.”
Crisp added that it is “uncertain” how much of the $7.1 million overpayments will be recovered – “if any”.
As of 28 February 2020, the NT government said it made significant progress in rectifying the situation by way of upgrading its payroll system, and lodging SG statements with the ATO for the majority of current and former employees owed super.