Labor demands early super investigation
Labor has demanded an investigation into the early super scheme following a $12 billion blowout and widespread reports of theft and fraud.
Shadow minister for financial services Stephen Jones has demanded the auditor-general launch an investigation into the “integrity and performance” of the government’s early release super scheme in the wake of a number of revelations about cost and fraud.
“The scheme was designed to provide financial relief for people experiencing income loss and hardship caused by the economic impact of COVID-19… the government administration of the scheme appears to have departed from this legislated purpose,” Mr Jones wrote in the letter to the auditor-general.
Mr Jones said the scheme had suffered from “major theft and fraud issues” that resulted in the loss of “significant quantities” of superannuation, inaccurate and misleading promotion of the scheme, and a $12 billion blowout in cost estimates.
“Government minister and senior public servants have acknowledged many of these failings, but have not provided any details as to the government’s response,” Mr Jones wrote. “Despite these failings, the scheme is now being extended for a further three months.”
The demand drew scorn from assistant minister for superannuation Jane Hume.
“Labor refers early release to Auditor-General because they don’t agree with self-assessment to the ATO,” Ms Hume tweeted. “No one tell them how tax returns work.”
The news comes as confusion grows over whether government agencies or super funds have the responsibility for reimbursing the small number of accounts emptied through fraud, with Mr Jones questioning whether the legislative obligation for funds to make payments as quickly as possible had resulted in them being unable to conduct significant background checks.
“The liability for (fraudulent payments) and where that might get recovered from would need to be explored based on the particular circumstances of where and how the identity theft occurred,” APRA deputy chair Helen Rowell told the Standing Committee on Economics. “I don’t think you can give a black and white answer to these questions because they can be quite complex.
“It could potentially rest with the fund, it could potentially rest with another party, depending how the fraud has been undertaken.”
The ATO has also revealed that it did not check the eligibility of early release claims and is now investigating hundreds of ineligible claims.
“This is about getting emergency money to people,” ATO second commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn told the Standing Committee. “We will never have enough information to reject quickly, we will give people their money on the basis of their say-so.”