Auditor-General launches probe into ATO’s handling of JobKeeper

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The National Audit Office is investigating the ATO’s administration of the JobKeeper program, after continued criticism from federal Labor about the lack of oversight of the $90 billion wage subsidy scheme.

The audit will focus on whether the ATO effectively administered the rules for JobKeeper, implemented effective measures to ensure the integrity of JobKeeper payments, and lastly, whether it effectively monitored the performance of the scheme.

The investigation, which has already begun, will involve both the Treasury and the ATO and the final report is due to be tabled in parliament by October this year.

The announcement of the audit follows criticism from the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh, who wrote to the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) in December to request the investigation address three areas of concern.

Leigh urged ANAO to investigate how many large firms manipulated their revenue — for example, whether there were firms that adjusted invoicing times to show an artificial shortfall in revenue.

Leigh requested the audit find out how many large firms received JobKeeper and then went on to earn a surge in profits later in the year.

Also requested was detailed information about how much support was paid to large firms that paid executive bonuses.

Auditor-General Grant Hehir responded to Leigh’s letter saying that his three concerns would be considered during the planning of the JobKeeper audit.

“An audit on the administration of the JobKeeper scheme may consider a range of matters, including the ATO’s arrangements for administering the rules of the scheme, and its arrangements for identifying and addressing any fraud and abuse of the scheme,” Hehir said.

An ATO spokesperson told SmartCompany that it “welcomes the commencement of the ANAO review” but could not comment on its progress.

Last year, the ANAO conducted a review of the risks related to the rapid implementation of COVID-19 economic response measures, which included JobKeeper.

The ATO actively contributed to that review, and considered the report supportive of its responsibilities to manage risks related to the rapid implementation of COVID-19 economic response measures, the spokesperson said.

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