Media Release by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

NDIA capability review

Today I release an independent review of the capability of the NDIS Agency (NDIA), which is charged with delivering the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The review was commissioned by the Board of the Agency in response to my requests in December last year for their assessment of the early operation of the Scheme and the Agency’s capacity to plan and deliver full rollout. The review was undertaken by Mr Jeff Whalan AO, Dr Peter Acton and Dr Jeff Harmer AO.

The findings of the capability review are both inspiring and sobering.

Inspiring, because several thousand Australians with disability are now getting the better deal they deserve. And inspiring because the hard working staff of the NDIS Agency have put in a herculean effort and achieved launch in the trial sites against the odds.

And sobering because the theme that runs through the report is that the decision by the previous government to bring forward by a year the commencement date of the trial sites has compromised key capabilities required to support and deliver full scheme roll out.

The review authors state: The Agency is like a plane that took off before it had been fully built and is being completed while it is in the air.” (Page 7)

The review finds that the previous government’s compressed timeframe has been at the expense of planning for full Scheme and has compromised the capacity of the Agency to learn from the trial sites and to develop its ICT and participant assessment and planning capabilities.

The review makes clear that the Agency’s foundations need work in order to deliver and
sustain the full NDIS.

The review also finds that the late appointment of the Board denied the opportunity for them to be involved in the initial build and design. The Productivity Commission recommended that a skills based Board be appointed a year before launch. The Board was announced just twelve days before launch.

In response to the capability review, the Agency has developed an action plan and will provide further advice as to whether the current implementation timetable is consistent with a successful full scheme rollout.

The Government is determined to deliver the NDIS in full. This objective can only be achieved by an honest assessment of the capabilities of the Agency, an understanding as to why issues have arisen and a determination to lay sound foundations for the full national scheme.

A copy of the report is available online at

Key findings of the NDIA capability review

The bringing forward of the commencement date, together with the results of compromises to the proposed design of the Scheme in response to stakeholder concerns, has caused a large number of significant problems:

  • The ICT system put in place was the best available at very short notice but is not fit for purpose
  • the Board was not established until 1 July 2013. The Board is composed of nominees from State and Territory jurisdictions and while the members are high quality individuals, the selection process is not optimal for achieving the best mix of skill
  • the Board did not select the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the CEO did not select his temporary Senior Executive staff
  • most staff in the Agency’s National Office are temporary, pending permanent recruitment to positions in Geelong
  • the data available from States is poorer than it would have been had there been time to cleanse it before commencement. As a result a lot of time has been spent trying to get clarity over which people are current customers of State services
  • the capability of the Agency is weaker than it otherwise would have been and the systems and processes to help ensure consistency of approach are less developed, and
  • lack of clear guidance for staff on the way the Scheme operates, including eligibility and reasonable and necessary support.