Disabled person

Australia's disability advocate groups voiced their concern regarding the changes in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) bill and stressed they will not support the legislation in the present form.

Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA), First Peoples Disability Network Australia and People with Disability Australia, along with eight other peak bodies representing people with disability urged the federal government to hear their side before legislating the recommendations made by a government-led Senate inquiry, ABC News reported.

"People with disability feel a loss of trust in the Parliamentary process that promises to listen to us, as we contemplate significant reform to the services and supports provided through the scheme," they said in a statement.

Senate's recommendations include defining what qualifies for NDIS support, expanding the powers of the NDIS quality and safeguards commissioner, implementing comprehensive needs assessments, and doing away with admissions based solely on diagnosis.

The amendment is expected to be presented before the Senate this week for voting; however, the Coalition and Greens are likely to refer it back to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee.

The opposition criticized the government for not giving sufficient time for consultation. If the bill is sent back for further inquiry process, it could require more hearings and calling new witnesses.

The federal government has set apart AU$10.6 million over the next two years to draft the changes in NDIS.

Sophie Cusworth, acting CEO of Women with Disability Australia, said the Senate's report failed to address some of the major concerns regarding the bill. She said the community expected the government to genuinely engage with them on all stages of the NDIS reform.

"People with disabilities are the experts in our own lives, and we need to be central to NDIS reforms. Our submission called for the bill to mandate the involvement of people with disabilities in a leadership capacity throughout the design and implementation phases of NDIS reforms and any associated legal and regulatory frameworks," Cusworth said.

In a related finding, the parliamentary inquiry committee looking into public contracts found violation of rules and ethics after officials from US IT firm Salesforce submitted that they had dined with National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) officials and gifted them luxury items during and after signing the multimillion-dollar software contract.

Salesforce signed a software contract with NDIA to work on a new online system, called PACE, for NDIS participants.

Appearing before the parliamentary inquiry, Salesforce submitted to dining at expensive restaurants with NDIA and NDIS officials, gifting them items worth AU$100 between 2019 and 2023, The Guardian reported.

Salesforce and NDIA officials had golf outings at Kingston Heath golf club in Melbourne, where the estimated charge for one person is AU$171.

NDIA is the agency in charge of NDIS. However, the NDIA officials denied its staff receiving gifts and benefits from Salesforce.

Committee chair Julian Hill said the contracting process "fell short" of commonwealth rules and ethical requirements.

"The committee was surprised to find that no explicit price weighting was included in the NDIA's value for money assessments when ranking the tender proposals for this procurement and makes a recommendation regarding this," Hill said in his foreword.

The Salesforce contract was increased from AU$27 million in April 2020 to AU$135 million in October 2023, after altering the scope and supplying additional software licenses.

The inquiry reports recommended that the government examine if the practice is widespread across all federal departments and look into the government contracts signed with major IT firms.