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Almost 500 soldiers, including those serving in Afganistan, have been asked to pay back a total of £783,347 in overpaid wages following a data input error at the Ministry of Defence. The MoD confirmed that the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency, a MoD agency, was responsible for payments to soldiers, and that a ‘human error’ was made during data entry into the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system in 2007. This error was revealed in June.

This meant that a higher, and incorrect, rate of annual incremental increase in pay was entered into the system, which led to the affected soldiers being overpaid over the past three years. Although most of the soldiers will have to repay between £1,000 and £3,000 each, one soldier will have to pay back £6,500.

A spokesperson for the MoD said: “We can confirm that an overpayment of salary has been made to some 485 army personnel as a result of a processing error in 2007. We have apologised to those affected, and are in the process of contacting everyone involved.

“Where repayment of monies is appropriate, procedures are in place to prevent any hardship to individuals. Personnel will never be asked to repay more than four days’ pay a month.”

The JPA system has been under fire since it was introduced in 2006, with the intention to join the separate payrolls for the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force.

Last year, the £245 million EDS-built salary system was lambasted by the Commons Defence Select Committee after it malfunctioned and short-changed thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen, including those serving in Afghanistan.

The JPA system had incorrect details for one in ten personnel, and underpaid some by as much as £345 every month, the committee’s report noted.