IT glitch, failure to communicate hurt NDIS launch

Disappointing to see such key services affected: An urgent review by consultants PwC into a flawed computer system that crippled the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme has revealed a technical problem coupled with poor information led to disruptions and delays for service providers and clients, and a slump in the number of plans approved. Although the review, to be delivered to Social Services Minister Christian Porter today, described the technical glitch as short-lived, the IT problem and poor communication by the National Disability Insurance Agency resulted in errors being entered into the new MyPlace payment portal.

“As a result, there were disruptions and delays in payments being made to a group of providers and participants through the payment portal,” Mr Porter told The Australian yesterday. “Based on initial advice from PwC, as well as a short-lived technical issue experienced by bulk service providers, there was also an issue around the adequacy of information provided to users of the payment portal, which led to errors in inputting necessary information.” Mr Porter insisted “the situation is improving rapidly and significantly”, saying that successful payments to providers and participants had increased from about 70 per cent to 96 per cent. However, he said while the NDIA had diverted resources to resolve the early IT issues as quickly as possible, there was a “flow-on effect” of a slowdown in the rate of plan approvals for the large number of people deemed eligible for the scheme. “Currently, more than 15,000 people have been deemed eligible for the scheme since July 1, which is more than 78 per cent of the bilateral target for the first quarter of transition,” he said. “More than 5000 of those people have commenced the planning process or had their plan approved.”

Since the online portal payment problems arose in June, Mr Porter and Assistant Disabilities Minister Jane Prentice have been scrambling to restore faith in an ambitious national rollout that involves assessing and approving individual plans for 430,000 people during the next three years. On August 5, the ministers were forced to commission an urgent review by PwC into the flawed IT system, designed in-house and used by the NDIA, that was blamed for some providers being left unpaid and some people being unable to access services. Amid the chaos, some therapists withdrew services and some parents of disabled children were harassed by debt collectors. Yesterday, Mr Porter said he had asked the chair of the NDIA board to “take action to resolve outstanding issues around information to portal users and ensure that transitional plan approval remains on target in the first two quarters of transition”. He also has ordered the establishment of an NDIS transition management team to address all outstanding portal issues and plan approval targets; authorised the appointment of a chief operating officer to oversee all of the NDIA’s operational matters during the transition to full scheme rollout; sought more robust reporting on key metrics around portal issue resolution and plan approval rates; and sought the establishment of stronger information sharing. An extra 100 staff from the departments of social services and human services had been assigned to the NDIA. Extract from The Australian,August 31, 2016 MICHAEL OWEN, SA Bureau Chief – Adelaide