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Auditor-General endorses ATO’s COVID-19 response

The ATO’s rapid implementation of COVID-19 economic response measures has been given a tick of approval from the Auditor-General.

Business Jotham Lian 15 December 2020
— 1 minute read

Tabled on Monday, the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) performance audit report concluded that the ATO had effectively managed risks, undertook appropriate planning and implemented the six economic response measures it was tasked with in a timely manner.

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The six measures include the JobKeeper scheme, the cash flow boost, the early release of superannuation, the enhanced instant asset write-off, the backing business investment, and the temporary reduction of superannuation minimum drawdown rates.

The audit cost the ANAO $437,000 and did not include an assessment of the design, effectiveness or outcomes of the six measures.

Auditor-General Grant Hehir ultimately made no recommendations but provided key messages to other government entities to rely on.

The ANAO has since flagged, however, that it is currently considering a standalone audit on the ATO’s administration of the JobKeeper scheme, which would include an examination of the implementation of integrity measures designed to protect the scheme against fraud and other abuse.

Snapshot of findings

The audit found that the ATO reassigned over 10,000 staff to support the rollout of the six measures. It later also recruited over 1,500 casual employees to further support the implementation of the measures and to cover tax time 2020 demands.

Despite the mobilisation of staff, the Tax Office hit its limit between 21 and 28 April — the week where JobKeeper enrolments formally opened — resulting in 71,563 calls being blocked. Severe degradation of its contact centre service also saw close to 110,000 calls being prevented from connecting to the ATO.

The audit also found that the ATO had appropriately considered a number of risks associated with the measures and developed the requisite risk mitigation strategies.

The ANAO revealed that the ATO’s risk and compliance strategies had resulted in 46 businesses being investigated for JobKeeper fraud by mid-August, while around 800 early access to super requests were flagged on the suspicion of fraud.

Responding to the audit, the ATO noted that it implemented the new measures within weeks, despite the typical timeline for such activities hovering between six and 12 months. It has since thanked the Auditor-General for the positive assessment of its risk management activities.

Auditor-General endorses ATO’s COVID-19 response
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Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.

Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.

You can email Jotham at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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