NT government accidentally overpaid its officials $3.6 million in fiscal year 2020-21



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Northern Territory officials received more than $3 million in overpayments last fiscal year, including an employee whose bank balance rose $93,000 due to a single payroll error, the auditor general says.

According to Julie Crisp’s latest report to NT parliament, a total of 2,365 overpayments totaling $3.6 million were made to 1,443 employees during fiscal year 2020-21.

The biggest payroll mistake was a single transaction of $93,771 in January last year.

By August, none of the staff member’s extra money had been recovered, Ms Crisp said.

Most of the other overpayments were repaid within four months, but nearly $1 million was still outstanding in August.

The overpayments were detailed in Ms Crisp’s report to parliament.ABC News: Michael Donnelly

The payment errors were attributed to a number of factors, including:

  • Staff paid after layoff
  • Change of working hours
  • Overpaid allowances
  • Staff paid during leave without pay
  • Legal conditions set incorrectly
  • Contract terminated in wrong payment cycle

“My review of the data related to overpaid salaries highlights the need for management to be vigilant at all times,” said Ms. Crisp.

Most of the overpayments were made by the Top End Health Service, followed by the Education Department, the Central Australian Health Service and the NT Police.

Some overpayments take decades to pay back

In addition to the overpayments in the previous financial year, the Court also looked at historical payment errors that had yet to be corrected.

She said $2.8 million in historic overpayments had not been recovered as of August last year.

NT Parliament building outside
Ms Crisp has called for the outstanding money to be recovered ‘in time’.ABC News: Michael Franchic

One of the cases dates back to 2013, when an employee received $83,246 in overpayments.

About a quarter of the debt has now been repaid.

“This employee pays $100 every two weeks to settle the debt, so the debt is expected to be paid off in about 24 years,” said Ms. Crisp.

In all, 10 significant individual overpayments were noted in the report, ranging in size from $44,286 to $93,771.

The oldest repayment commitment, valued at $36,807, dates back to 2010, with only a third of the money recovered and the last payment made five years ago.

It is unknown if any of the debts have been repaid since the Auditor General conducted her investigation.

The cause of most historical overpayments was categorized as “unknown”.

Three government agencies, including Education, NT Police and the Department of Corporate and Digital Development, responded to the Court’s findings.

The agencies all said they were reviewing their processes to reduce overpayments and improve recovery processes.

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