Overpaid health staff may keep $27m after payroll bungle
Overpaid employees may end up keeping the money. Photo: Glenn Hunt
The Queensland government has conceded it may write off nearly $27 million in overpayments to more than 11,500 employees as a result of the Queensland Health payroll bungle.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg is set to announce in the coming week that the government will launch legal action against former staff who have either avoided or flatly refused to repay the money.
But he conceded former employees, who have fled overseas while owing tens of thousands of dollars to Queensland Health, may not be within the government's reach.
"We might have to be prepared to write it off," Mr Springborg said.
"I'm probably not all that far away from making a recommendation to government that we pursue former employees who are refusing to pay back large sums of money which they were actually overpaid."
Among those in the minister's sights is an anaesthetist overpaid $11,788 over three weeks in March and April 2010 while he should have been on unpaid leave.
The specialist, who earned $11,000 per fortnight, was contacted by Queensland Health last year.
But he has since refused to negotiate and has requested that all future correspondence be directed to his lawyers, according to the department.
Other medical workers keen to keep their accidental pay rise include a paediatric surgical registrar who was overpaid $12,000 in April 2010.
Queensland Health made contact with the registrar in September last year regarding the overpayment, but the employee has since disconnected their phone and has not responded to emails.
"We know it wasn't their fault, but it's not their money either," Mr Springborg said.
Thousands of public servants were underpaid, overpaid or unpaid after a flawed IBM computer system was introduced in March 2010 by the then Labor government.
When a moratorium on overpayment debts was lifted last May, 49,040 employees owed a total of $89.5 million in outstanding debts.
But the overpayments have continued since, taking the current outstanding balance owed to Queensland Health to $97.4 million.
So far, more than $10 million has been recovered and a further $10.4 million is expected to be recouped through repayment agreements already in place or agreed in principle.
Of the $10 million already recovered, $2.16 million was repaid by employees who accepted a voluntary redundancy.
A KPMG report commissioned by the Liberal National Party government estimated it would cost $1.2 billion to fix and run the system by 2017.
A three-month inquiry into the scandal began last week.