Rushed NDIS roll-out affected by inadequate ICT system


A review into the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has found “a large number of significant problems” fronted by an ineffective ICT system.

The roll-out of the NDIS was originally recommended by the Productivity Commission to begin in July 2014, however, the Labor Government brought it forward a year to July 2013. The Review of the Capabilities of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) concluded that a rushed roll-out had resulted in an ICT system that was “the best available at very short notice but is not fit for purpose”.

At the time, the Commission also recommended that ICT infrastructure be purchased in July 2014 “once the key elements of the scheme were designed and implemented”. The ICT System was instead built prior to the finalisation of the NDIS legislation with a “compromise system” provided by the Department of Social Services, formerly the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA).

According to the Review, it was “built before work was undertaken by the Scheme Actuary to determine the data that needed to be collected to assess the long-term sustainability of the Scheme”.

As a result it is limiting “the effectiveness of the Actuarial Unit and the flexibility of the Agency to respond to the experience of the planning staff”.

Trial sites for the NDIS have already been set up in Barwon, the Hunter, Tasmania and South Australia (SA) while further facilities in Western Australia (WA) and the Northern Territory (NT) are due to be opened on 1 July 2014. However, the review has deemed the roll-out of the Scheme premature, likening it to “a plane that took off before it had been fully built and is being completed while in the air”.

The current system, hosted by DSS, supports the NDIS national office and all initial launch site offices. System capabilities include:

  • a business and information system for intake, eligibility, assessment and planning processes,
  • a payments processing system for claims,
  • online portals for individuals and providers,
  • the NDIS website, and
  • a data warehouse.

The Review notes that it is now a high recommendation for the Agency to lift the capacity of the ICT system to collect the appropriate data to ensure the Scheme is sustainable. Eventually the NDIA will have to develop new ICT systems to render the mistakes caused by a premature roll-out, however, “Because of the long lead times in developing new ICT systems, there will need to be short-term investment in improving the current system”.

In January 2014, a spokesperson from the Agency confirmed to Intermedium that NDIA had completed a request for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the provision of “additional systems capability needed to support the NDIS full scheme roll out”.

The outcomes of this initial Approach to Market (ATM), conducted in September 2013, will inform appropriations in the upcoming Commonwealth budget, with any further ATMs likely to come in the 2014-15 financial year.

The 2012-13 Federal Budget allocated $240.3 million over four years to FaHCSIA, now DSS, “to build and operate the information technology system required to collect and analyse data to monitor client outcomes and measure the performance of the new arrangements.”

A review of the then FaHCSIA’s contracts for 2012-13 indicates that:

  • $35.1 million was spent on Labour Hire contracts, an increase of 91.8 per cent on the previous year. In 2013-14 year to date, $8.2 million has been spent;
  • A total of $4.5 million was spent on IT Services contracts over the financial year;
  • $18.8 million was spent on Software contracts; and
  • Nearly $19 million was spent on Hardware agreements.

Further issues to the roll-out of the NDIS have been caused by a last minute shift of the NDIA’s National Office from Canberra to Geelong, one month before the roll-out began.

The report concluded that while the staff of the NDIA are handling a rushed roll-out well, “The decision to bring forward the commencement date by a year and to move the National Office to Geelong without any change to the forward timetable increased the risks to the Agency by putting it into operation before it could fully prepare and by diverting resources to manage the move to a regional site.”

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