Slow down NDIS roll-out, says National Commission of Audit

The roll-out of the national disability insurance scheme should be slowed because the timetable puts its financial sustainability at risk, the National Commission of Audit has recommended.

The recommendation come as it is reported Prime Minister Tony Abbott will seek the agreement of all the states' premiers for a review of the NDIS at a meeting in Canberra on Friday.

But NSW Premier Mike Baird rejected any co-operation on renegotiating a new timetable for the rollout of the NDIS, telling reporters in Canberra on Friday that he had "no intention to renegotiate".

"We've been clear on the NDIS. We have an agreement and we expect that to be met," he said.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said, however, that the proposal to delay the NDIS rollout had ''merit''.

‘‘It may be rolled out a little bit more slowly, that may not be a bad thing,’’ he told reporters in Canberra on Friday. ‘‘It may mean that what we end up with at the end of the day provides better services to people with a disability.’’

The scheme, which started in the Hunter region of NSW, the Barwon region of Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia last July, is expected to provide support for 460,000 people by 2019-20, its first full year of operation. The cost of the scheme at that time is expected to be $22.2 billion, including contributions from state and territory governments.

Speculation the Abbott government may seek to slow down its implementation has intensified since the release in March of a review commissioned by the board of the National Disability Insurance Agency, which highlighted early problems in the roll-out.

It concluded the Gillard government's decision to launch the scheme in July 2013, one year earlier than recommended by the Productivity Commission, had compromised planning for the scheme.

It found the IT system was not fit for its purpose, there were problems with data provided by the states and there was a lack of clear guidance for staff on how the scheme operated.

In an interview with ABC radio on Thursday, chairman of the National Disability Insurance Agency Bruce Bonyhady said the scheme was being refined over time and did not need a review. "What it needs now is careful implementation," Mr Bonyhady said.

Labor's spokeswoman on disability reform Jenny Macklin accused Mr Abbott of wanting to use a review to cut or delay the scheme, and she urged state and territory leaders to reject the review.

"People with disability have already waited long enough," Ms Macklin said. "They shouldn’t have to wait any longer."

The Victorian Minister for Disability Services and Reform Mary Wooldridge said Victoria expected the government to honour its agreement to have the full scheme in place across Victoria by 2019. "A further review is unnecessary," she said.

The commission of audit says the NDIS is "a worthy scheme with widespread community support" but it needs to be implemented in a "fiscally sustainable" manner.

"The roll-out schedule for the NDIS is ambitious," it says. "Client numbers are planned to increase more than 10-fold in less than three years. This will increase the risk of poor or insufficient delivery of disability services to participants and also pose significant financial risks to the scheme as a whole.

"There would be merit in extending the roll-out schedule to help minimise the risks associated with the introduction of the scheme."

The report suggests extending the "peak ramp-up period", which is 2015-16 to 2018-19, by another three years. Under this scenario, a full roll-out would occur in 2022-23.

Such a change requires the agreement of the states and territories, as the timetable is part of the agreements they have signed, and any delay to the scheme will have an impact on existing disability services being delivered.

The commission of audit also recommends outsourcing more of its work, such as eligibility assessments, to other organisations, and that the chief executive of the agency report directly to the federal minister rather than through a board to a council.

It says the agency needs to "exercise budget control" and current arrangements, including the need for state governments to agree to changes to the scheme's rules, have reduced flexibility.

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