Auditor-General Grant Hehir has commenced an audit to examine the effectiveness of the ATO’s administration of the JobKeeper program, with the report to be tabled in October.
The audit will look into the Tax Office’s handling of the rules, and whether it implemented effective measures to identify and address any fraud and abuse.
The new inquiry comes after the ANAO endorsed the ATO’s rapid implementation of COVID-19 economic response measures, which included the JobKeeper program. It flagged at the time, however, that the $90 billion program warranted a potential standalone audit.
The Auditor-General has also revealed that he will consider the Opposition’s request for his office to take a closer look at large corporates who paid executive bonuses while receiving JobKeeper support.
Shadow assistant minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh had written to Mr Hehir last December with three specific lines of inquiry that he hoped the ANAO would consider, including determining how much JobKeeper support was paid out to large firms that paid executive bonuses.
Dr Leigh had also requested for the ANAO to uncover how much JobKeeper support was paid out to large firms that experienced higher revenue in 2020 than 2019, and if large firms had manipulated their revenue to qualify for the wage subsidy.
Mr Hehir has since responded, noting that “the three questions listed in [Dr Leigh’s] letter will be considered during any planning of objective and scope of the potential JobKeeper audit”.
The audit comes after a number of firms began handing back their JobKeeper payments off the back of profits generated over the past year.
Domino’s Pizza is the latest JobKeeper recipient to return $792,000 in subsidies, following Iluka Resources’ $13.6 million repayment, Super Retail Group’s $1.7 million and Toyota Australia’s $18 million.
Large corporates such as Premier Investments and Harvey Norman have continued to draw Dr Leigh’s ire for holding off on returning JobKeeper payments despite recording revenue rises and paying executive bonuses or dividends.
“One of the things I hope the Auditor-General will go to is exactly how a program like this could have been better put together,” Dr Leigh told 5AA on Wednesday.
“But we also need to make sure that the Auditor-General’s looking there at the rorts.
“We know that there’s firms that have been handing out significant dividends at the time in which they were also saying to the taxpayer that they’re in so much strife that they needed government handouts. It just can’t be consistent.”
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.