23 Oct 2020

Businesses receiving wage subsidy being audited by MSD

12:06 pm on 23 October 2020

Nearly 10,000 businesses who got the wage subsidy have been audited but it is still unknown how many have abused the scheme.

Work and Income offices

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has been carrying out the random audits, as 759,000 applicants have had money approved from the $14 billion fund.

"As at 30 September, we have carried out 9917 random and targeted audits across the wage subsidy schemes," MSD client service support general manager George van Ooyen said.

However, he was unable to say if MSD found any breaches or if any companies challenged requests to return the money, as that is not part of its regular reporting.

RNZ was told it would need to file an Official Information Act request for this data.

More than 16,000 businesses have already voluntarily repaid money they received from the scheme, totalling $473.1 million.

When MSD did discover issues during an audit, van Ooyen said it would engage with a business to understand their eligibility for the subsidy and explain its obligations.

"Applicants may be asked to repay the subsidy, or in the most serious cases, where there is evidence of deliberate fraud, we will consider criminal prosecutions.

"There have been no prosecutions to date and any decisions on prosecutions will come after a thorough investigation. "

Earlier this year, it was revealed that government ministers were not receiving up to date figures on breaches of the wage subsidy scheme.

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