A public servant from the Northern Territory received a half-a-million-dollar payday after an accounting error saw a decimal point placed two spaces too far to the right, a new auditor-general report has revealed.
The ABC reports the public servant was meant to receive a payment of $4,921.76, but a fat-fingered placement of the decimal point saw them paid $492,176 instead. The worker then repaid the funds four weeks later.
“The cause of the overpayment was a combination of two different human errors, those being the erroneous initial data entry and a subsequent failure to adequately address [a system-generated alert],” the report said.
“Due to the quantum of the overpayment, the payee, who worked remotely … needed to physically attend their bank in an urban centre to authorise the return of funds to the NT Government thus there was a delay in the return of the overpayment.”
According to the report, over 740 overpayments were made by government departments in the Northern Territory from July 2017 to January 2018, totalling $1.6 million. Almost half ( $767,000) of the amount is yet to be paid back by the affected public servants.
This isn’t the first time the practices of NT public servants have been drawn into the spotlight, with an auditor-general report from last year revealing one public servant had 4,775 hours of paid leave accrued, or around $400,000 worth.
“To put this particular employee’s entitlement into context and taking into account annual public holidays and ongoing 30-day annual leave credit per annum, if this employee commenced leave on 1 April 2017, their annual leave and long service leave entitlements could enable them to be on fully paid leave until mid-February 2021,” the auditor-general said at the time.
“My review of the data related to leave highlights the necessity for entities to manage staff leave on a continual basis and ensure that staff take their leave entitlement in a timely manner.”