A parliamentary inquiry says during its deliberations it received evidence that key ICT systems of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) still need to be “significantly improved”.
The Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme in December completed its report into the ICT systems supporting the NDIS.
The committee found that the NDIA is “under enormous pressure to meet its participant intake targets”. As of the end of September, more than 208,000 participants were receiving support through the NDIS — by 2020, some 460,000 participants are expected to be covered by the scheme.
During a trial period from 2013 to mid-2016, the NDIS was delivered using a Siebel system managed by the Department of Social Services. The government in 2015-16 earmarked $143 million over a four-year period for a permanent ICT system to underpin the scheme, with the Department of Human Services tasked with overseeing its implementation.
At the height of the scheme, the system is expected to deal with 20 million transactions a year.
In a submission to the inquiry, Human Services said that given a “compressed timeframe to support initial build activities, the Department applied agile development principles and techniques to deliver a Minimal Viable Product (MVP)”.
“This approach is consistent with global industry practice,” the department said. The system “was built and tested to specification and no technical issues were identified with the NDIS system at full scheme launch”.
The new system went live at the start of July 2016, coinciding with the transition from the NDIS trial to the full scheme. The trial NDIS portal was shut down in mid-June 2016 in anticipation of the shift to the new ‘MyPlace’ system.
MyPlace manages transactions and the exchange of information between NDIS participants and providers and the NDIA.
When the portal went live, however, problems with the system led to service providers and participants not receiving payments. Those problems were largely resolved by the end of August 2016.
A government-commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers review, released in September that year, found that the problems with the portal had involved “not a single catastrophic event, but rather a series of compounding issues.”
PwC found that an inadequate change management plan “led to insufficient preparation, stakeholder needs identified too late, and ineffective implementation of change activities.”
During the parliamentary inquiry, participants and service providers “were critical of the NDIS website and the NDIS Contact Centre as they continue to struggle finding adequate information or having their queries answered in a satisfactory and timely manner,” the committee’s report states.
“Submitters also raised issues about the MyPlace participant and provider portals' functionality and capabilities. It is resulting in unnecessary delays, duplication of efforts, and additional administrative burden for the NDIA, LACs [Local Area Coordinators], service providers and participants.”
“It is imperative that the issues raised by submitters are swiftly addressed by the NDIA to ensure improved outcomes for participants and assist with the long-term sustainability of the Scheme,” the report states.
It adds: “Importantly, the committee is of the view that the NDIA must engage with stakeholders to design and enhance all aspects of the ICT services that underpin the NDIS service delivery model. It is clear that a lot of administrative burden and additional transaction costs would have been avoided if the NDIA had initially collaborated with end-users to design and improve the website and the portals.”
The committee noted that in the wake of a Pathway Review, the NDIA had committed to improving its ICT systems, including enhancing the participant and provider portals and its website.
The NDIA has been approached for comment.
The full report is available online (PDF).