NDIS contracts under review after assessments plan dumped

NDIA chief executive Martin Hoffman and NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
NDIA chief executive Martin Hoffman and NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The National Disability Insurance Agency is reviewing the lucrative contracts it signed with companies to deliver independent assessments - but won't explicitly say if it will tear up the deals in the wake of the decision to dump the controversial plan.

Labor's Bill Shorten is demanding the contracts be cancelled immediately, as he labelled it a "scandal" that agreements - potentially worth up to $339 million - had been struck months before legislation needed to usher in the new regime had even been introduced to parliament.

NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds has this week declared compulsory independent assessments for participants are "dead" and won't be resurrected after her state and territory counterparts rejected the proposal at a meeting on Friday.

The ministers instead agreed to design a new "person-centred" assessment model in consultation with the disability community.

The result of Friday's meeting will have immediate and significant implications for the agency, which had already appointed eight companies to deliver independent assessments in anticipation of the new system rolling from mid-2021.

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The contracts were worth up to an estimated $339 million over three years, based on the number of assessments expected to be conducted.

Agency officials have previously insisted that under the arrangement the contractors would be paid per assessment. That means they would only receive payments if independent assessments went ahead.

The panel's appointment in late February was, and remains, highly controversial.

Labor NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Labor NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The successful tenders were announced just three days after public consultation on independent assessments concluded, a move which heightened the disability sector's fears that the government was not committed to genuine collaboration.

The Canberra Times put a series of questions to the agency about the contracts following last Friday's meeting, including whether the panel would be disbanded and the deals torn up and, if so, whether the companies would be paid compensation.

The agency was also asked if the companies had been paid since their appointment to the panel, and whether they might be retained to deliver the proposed new "person-centred" model in the future.

In a written statement, the agency did not respond directly to the questions.

An agency spokesman said it supported the decision to not proceed with independent assessments.

The spokesman said it was reviewing all "relevant operations to ensure alignment with the decision", which included discussions with the contracts. It did not provide any further details.

The companies contacted this week by The Canberra Times referred all questions about the contracts to the agency.

Mr Shorten, Labor's NDIS spokesman, said it was scandalous that the agency had signed contracts to deliver independent assessments before the states, disability stakeholders and, crucially, federal parliament, had agreed to them.

"I think it is a scandal," he told The Canberra Times.

"This is a government that has no shame. If we had an anti-corruption commission, I'd want them to check out how contracts can be issued before there was legislation to create the path to do the work. How do you get to do that?"

Mr Shorten said the government had to come clean about how much had been spent on the tender process, and whether or not taxpayers would be now be on the hook for compensation.

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This story 'It is a scandal': Lucrative NDIS contracts under review after assessments plan dumped first appeared on The Canberra Times.