|Mark Dodd | April 16, 2009
Article from: The Australian
THE Department of Defence unrolls a reformed pay system today that incorporates revised salaries and allowances for servicemen and women totalling $2.4 billion over the next 10 years.
More than 37,000 personnel will benefit from the new scheme, which follows a damning KPMG audit of the department's payroll system and its administration earlier this month.
Details of the new pay deal for graded and other ranks were announced yesterday by Warren Snowdon, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel.
The KPMG report slammed the department's payroll management, saying IT systems were antiquated, staff were poorly trained and payroll administration unwieldy and complex.
The audit was ordered by Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon after he was unable to get assurances from Defence that debt-recovery action had been stopped in connection with the overpayment of allowances to elite SAS soldiers.
The new, simplified pay structure, incorporating upgraded remuneration reform, would start with an estimated 9000 sailors, Mr Snowdon said.
He said while the Defence remuneration system had been reformed, the same could not be said of its antiquated IT system, which was expected to disburse the funds.
"The issues which might emerge out of this will be the implementation of it - if they emerge at all. We're pretty confident that we're on top of those implementation issues but where they do arise, they will be a direct result of the failure (of the Howard government) to invest in an up-to-date payroll system," Mr Snowdon told The Australian last night.
He said the Defence pay structure had undergone major reform, a process begun in 2002, but the mechanics of its implementation were still wanting.
"Starting today, the first 9000 of over 37,000 enlisted defence personnel from ranks of private to warrant officer and their (service) equivalent will be paid under a new 10-grade pay system," he said.
It means about half of the personnel would be placed in higher pay grades and receive increased salaries.
Release of the KPMG report plunged relations between Mr Fitzgibbon and the Defence Secretary, Nick Warner, to a new low but vindicated the stance of the minister.
Mr Warner apologised for the SAS pay bungle, which he accepted had caused "upset and inconvenience" to members of the special forces and their families, in particular 11 members who had continued to be subject to debt recovery after the minister's directive it be halted.
KPMG found Defence's salary and allowances determination process "reminiscent of the industrial award arrangements of some decades ago".
Just how old are their systems and how far back does the blame go?