April 7th, 2011 at 08:45am
I have come across two rather interesting cases of government waste this week. Two cases where money is being paid to government employees to carry out pointless tasks.
Firstly, I had a CT scan a couple days ago. Medicare was covering some of the scan, and I was paying the rest which, from memory, was $160. After I had paid the $160 and my Medicare details had been recorded, I was informed that I would be receiving a cheque from Medicare in about four weeks time which would be addressed to the doctor who performed the scan, and that I would be required to forward the cheque to the clinic.
This is utterly ridiculous. If I had paid the full amount for the scan, I could have walked in to any Medicare office and received the Medicare portion of the payment in cash on the spot. And if I go to a bulk-billing doctor, the payment for the consultation goes straight to them…so why are the government wasting all of this time sending out payments to people who aren’t the ultimate recipient of the payment, only for the cheque to be handed to the doctor who then receives their payment? Wouldn’t it be simpler to pay the doctor directly via an electronic transfer? The answer is yes…but I suppose the government wouldn’t need as many people to administer that.
Secondly, I received a call from the tax office. My phone was off at the time, so they left a message which included my full name and the fact that they wanted to talk to me about my superannuation, and oddly that I “have no need to panic”. So I called them back on the number provided and, to my astonishment, got straight through to a human (the number must have a high priority in the phone queues) who asked me for all sorts of personal information (I googled the phone number first, it was legit) and then informed me that they wanted to talk to me about a “lost” superannuation account so that they could instruct the superannuation fund to reinstate it. He took a few moments to look up the account and then said “oh, that’s odd, the account is active”. My immediate reply was “let me guess, the Australian Super account?”, I received an affirmative response and then said to him “I sorted that out about three months ago” after which he apologised for taking up my time and asked if there was anything else he could help me with…not that he had actually helped me. I declined and the call ended.
Apart from the wasted time and expense of having a public servant make calls about superannuation accounts which are perfectly fine, the whole “lost super” thing is a rort and a giant waste of time. You pay fees to a private business to maintain these superannuation accounts, so they should not expire (or “become lost” to use the government’s preferred terminology) and default to government ownership simply because you haven’t contributed to them for a while. That’s like having a savings account with a bank and the bank seizing the funds because you haven’t checked the balance in the last week.
And then there’s the question of, if he can just push a button and reactivate the account with Australian Super (although I suspect it’s not so much the push of a button, but rather the completion of about 73 forms, a number of letters to the super fund, and about seven government employees overseeing the whole thing), why doesn’t he just go and do it…why ring me about it?
It amazes me that my tax dollars are going towards funding these kinds of useless and wasteful activities. It is a clear sign that the government is too big and could do with a bit of a prune.