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'It's awesome' - Shipping company boss hands back Government's Covid-19 wage subsidy

The owner of a Kiwi shipping company is delighted to be able to hand back money received from the Government's Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme.

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While some have handed the money back, many others have failed to do so and the Government is warning it will come after those who rip the taxpayer off. Source: 1 NEWS

When lockdown hit, Gavin Nell thought he'd need to lay off staff, and he applied for the subsidy in the interim.

"End of May came round and it was like, 'Nah, we don't need it,'" he told 1 NEWS.

Now, he's giving the money back.

"It was awesome, because what we thought would happen at the end of March to our business, actually the opposite has happened. We thought we might have to basically retrench people, but it's been the other way round."

Twelve billion dollars has been paid out in wage subsidies, of which $200 million has been repaid by 7000 companies, including Mainfrieght, who repaid over $10 million in May after faring better than expected.

Mainfreight returns wage subsidy after making more money than expected in lockdown

Over 2500 allegations have been made against companies for falsely claiming the subsidy, and 450 are being investigated. 

"When I last checked there had been 3000 audits. Many of those are just phone check-ins," said PwC's Geof Nightengale.

"But there's about 100 people at MSD working on auditing the wage subsidy and I think it's important for the integrity for the scheme."

To be eligible for the first round of the subsidy, businesses had to show they were down 30 per cent on the year before, and 40 per cent for the second round.

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Mr Grant is sharply critical of the Government giving out the wage subsidy – but took it regardless. Source: Breakfast

It's due to run out in August, with the Prime Minister saying yesterday a third round was unlikely.

Mr Nell says he feels fortunate to be able to hire new staff.

"We do know there's a lot of companies out there that have got rid of staff, cut costs."

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni warns criminal action could be taken against those gaming the system.