Overpaid staff still owe A$38m following Queensland Health payroll system debacle

The payroll system fiasco, which resulted in thousands of health workers being underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all, is estimated to have cost local taxpayers A$1.2 billion.

Almost 32,000 health employees in Queensland, Australia, are still in the process of paying back A$38 million (US$30.3 million) in salary overpayments in the wake of a payroll system debacle that is estimated to have cost taxpayers A$1.2 billion (US$95.6 million).

The Queensland government took legal action against IBM Australia in 2013, arguing that the computer giant had misrepresented its ability to provide a A$6 million (US$4.8 million) contract for the system on time and on budget, but the court subsequently ruled in favour of IBM.

The contract to design and deliver payroll applications that would service the entire government was originally signed in 2007, but its roll out was plagued by delays and budget overruns. When it finally did go live, it failed spectacularly, resulting in thousands of health workers being underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.

Now health minister Cameron Dick has released figures for the first time around how many doctors and nurses are still paying back these overpayments, indicating the amount has nearly halved over the last two years.

While nearly A$70 million (US$55.8 million) was owed in February 2015, the figure had dropped to A$38.3 million (US$30.5) by June 2017, with 12,337 people having cleared their debts in that time. Almost 1,400 employees still owe more than A$5,000 (US$3,985) , 8,840 owe between A$1,000 (US$797) and A$5,000 and 21,640 are paying back up to A$1,000.

Dick indicated that the workers were on repayment plans as officials balanced the need to recover the vast debt incurred between 2010 and 2013 with a requirement to act sensitively towards those unable to pay back the sums owed in one go.

He added that, while, a few payroll errors still occurred, they were now recouped automatically in the next pay cycle.