By Alyssa Betts
Dead people and prisoners have been receiving work for the dole payments in the Northern Territory, according to documents seen by the ABC as well as claims by community groups.Syd Laker, the general manager of the Demed Association, which provides services to outstations surrounding the West Arnhem community of Gunbalanya, said they had stumbled across the problem when people came in seeking help for banking and payments.
“One lady came in to get the superannuation because [her husband] had died, and we found out they were still being paid Centrelink payments,” Mr Laker said.
The ABC has seen the death certificate of that man, who was 36 years old when he died last year.
It has also seen his bank statements revealing he continued to be paid $287.57 a week — each with the reference of his work for the dole provider Jobfind Centre — for three months, totalling 12 payments, after his death.
The payments only stopped when his widow closed the account.
“And I know of another one that was in jail and then still being paid,” Mr Laker said.
“If you do your timesheets correctly and get people to sign off on your timesheets like you’re supposed to that can’t happen.”
Communications and support from Jobfind ‘hasn’t been good’
Demed’s claims are no surprise to Yagbani Aboriginal Corporation, which until June, had an agreement to run work-like activities for Jobfind on the nearby island community of Warruwi, which has a population of 400.
Projects coordinator Brenda Westley said it had been a battle to get updated lists from Jobfind showing who was eligible to participate in the activities.
“We have people who have either been in prison or deceased that are on these records,” she said.
“I’m not sure but I just take them off. Sometimes they just pop back up again.
“The communications with them [Jobfind] hasn’t been good.
“Really it’s a lack of support as well.
“We ask for participants lists and the list I get back is actually the one that I’ve written of who we’re working with.
“But then we find that they aren’t actually on Jobfind and aren’t eligible for training or funding support.”
Work-like programs in limbo while Jobfind stands to make millions
Jobfind has the Federal Government contract to run the remote work for the dole scheme in the Northern Territory’s Katherine and West Arnhem regions.
The scheme used to be called the Remote Jobs and Communities Program (RJCP), but it is now being revamped by the Federal Government and will be called the Community Development Program (CDP).
Several organisations have told the ABC that Jobfind did very little in setting up work-like activities in communities for the first year after it was awarded RJCP contracts in 2013.
Agreements for local groups to run activities on its behalf were eventually set up, but many have now expired.
Groups in Gunbalanya, Katherine and Warruwi have told the ABC their programs now hang in limbo and the money has either dried up, or new funding is being negotiated that would force them to shut shop.
At the same time, for the next six months, Jobfind stands to make up to $7.1 million in guaranteed Federal Government payments for its remote Northern Territory contracts.
This is because the Federal Government is giving providers a period of grace to transition to CDP, and is guaranteeing minimum payments worth 75 per cent of their fee during that time.
Mr Laker said Demed had found it difficult to set up agreements with Jobfind during the two years the Sydney-based company had the RJCP contract in Gunbalanya.
Part of that, he said, was due to constant staff upheaval in the local Jobfind office.
“I’d say there’s been 30 changes of staff in the last two years,” Mr Laker said.
“And the people on the ground are usually pretty good people. But the staff change over is just crazy.”
Jobfind will not respond to ‘rumours or speculation’
Jobfind’s new chief executive, Stirling Hay, would only release a statement saying the company would not respond to “rumours or speculation”.
He said the company was busy putting in place new arrangements for the scheme’s changes.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for the remote work for the dole scheme.
It was asked questions about safeguards to prevent people who had died or were in prison getting paid work for the dole, as well as whether it had ever acted against RJCP providers that might be receiving funding for having such people on their caseloads.