The company hired by the federal government to handle the controversial cashless debit card has demanded $ 2 million in caretaker payments before increasing revenue during the pandemic.
Payments firm Indue, which was granted a two-year, $ 26 million extension of its contract to continue running the program late last year, received around $ 2.1 million in funding. wage subsidies for total job guards. This included $ 632,700 in June 2020 and $ 1.49 million between July and September 2020, according to its annual report.
The company’s revenue increased in 2019-20 and 2020-21, resulting in profits of $ 2.1 million and $ 2.5 million, according to the report.
As part of the Jobkeeper program, companies were asked to estimate whether their sales would decrease by 30 to 50% from the previous year, depending on their size. There is no suggestion that Indue was ineligible for payments under the rules of the plan.
Controversially, the government has chosen not to include a clawback provision to recover money from companies that have exceeded expectations.
Labor deputy treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh, who called for greater accountability for companies who claimed the grant, said Indue should voluntarily return the money.
âIndue earns tens of millions of dollars using the cashless debit card for the Morrison government,â he said.
“Now it turns out they got $ 2 million in jobkeeper despite their increased income during the pandemic.”
The Parliamentary Budget Office’s analysis, first reported by the CBA on Tuesday, found that the Morrison government had disbursed a total of $ 38 billion in jobkeeper businesses that did not experience sustained downturns during the pandemic.
Several Australian companies have come under public pressure to reimburse jobkeepers’ funds, and some have done so, but the government has resisted calls to coerce them.
At the same time, the government sought to recover approximately $ 50 million from 16,000 welfare recipients who were overpaid due to an overlap with job maintenance payments.
A spokesperson for Indue said the company met job retention criteria by estimating that “GST revenue had declined or would likely decrease by 30% or more.”
The spokesperson said the company could “confirm that our actual GST revenue has fallen by more than 30%.”
The money was used to “preserve the employment of Indue staff and enabled Indue to take care of the difficult demands of our customers affected by the pandemic.”
“As a result, we intend to keep payments from the Job Guardian on the basis that Indue met the eligibility criteria, the payments were viewed for legitimate reasons and used by Indue for the purpose for which they were. intended, “said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson said the company’s “modest profit” included its job retention payments.
“As noted in our last annual report, government measures have supported consumer confidence, which has helped payment volumes and revenues gradually recover as bottlenecks were lifted,” the spokesperson said.
Using the cashless debit card is only part of the business operations, which include other banking services, fraud mitigation, and other payment products.
Leigh’s call for Indue to repay the wage subsidy comes amid a political fight over the future of the cashless debit card.
The program aims to reduce social harm – such as gambling, alcohol and drug abuse – by quarantining 80% of a person’s payments on a card that cannot withdraw money or be used. to purchase items prohibited under the program.
Since 42% of attendees are indigenous, the government’s card system was labeled racist and cardholders told Guardian Australia this caused stigma, resulted in missed rent payments and limited their ability to access to cheaper products online or in the cash economy.
A previously heard Senate investigation claimed that a mother could not buy a children’s book from a bookstore because the shop also sold books on alcohol distillation, while a nursing student was reportedly barred from buy a stethoscope and academic books at the Medshop. The Senate submission claimed that Indue staff said she could not buy these things because she may be trying to buy hand sanitizer to drink.
Labor MP Julian Hill told parliament last month that a woman was “forced to ask Indue for permission to purchase a bra that fits her at a store that was not on the approved list” and ” forced to send photos “.
The government insists that these complaints are handled by Services Australia, not Indue.
Hill has introduced a private member’s bill to end the regime once it expires at the end of next year and is among a number of Labor backbenchers claiming the government considering putting retirees on the map.
Anne Ruston, Minister of Social Services, has called the claim a “lie” and has repeatedly ruled out plans to extend the card to older retirees.
The two dozen retirees currently on the card have volunteered or been enrolled in the program by the Cape York Family Responsibility Commission.
While the Cape York site is overseen by the commission, the government is leading trials at Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland, Goldfields and East Kimberley in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia. The card also works in the Northern Territory.
Labor argue that the card is an example of the privatization of the welfare system and has long been opposed by Greens, social groups and local activists.
Indue’s total contract with the government, which dates back to 2015, stands at $ 70 million, including a two-year $ 26 million extension when the government won a Senate vote in December to maintain the program. .
A major study into the effects of the card in Ceduna found it to have ‘no substantial impact’, while an independent government-commissioned report was generally inconclusive as to whether the card had resulted in a reduction of social damage.
Last month, the government announced that participants in the Northern Territory could choose from the traditional credit union as well as Indue as their card issuer.