Between July 2016 and January 2018, the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman received 400 complaints that were, at least in part, about the NDIA’s administration of reviews. This represents 32.5 per cent of all complaints made to our Office about the NDIA during this period.
Of particular concern is the issue of delays in completing reviews. In February 2018, the NDIA advised our Office it had around 8,100 reviews on hand, and it was receiving around 620 new review requests each week. The NDIA has acknowledged some reviews are taking up to nine months to be completed.
While the NDIA implemented a new dedicated national team in November 2017 tasked with addressing the backlog, to date this approach has not been adequate to quickly and effectively work through the outstanding requests. As of 30 January 2018 (12 weeks after the commencement of the backlog team), the NDIA had triaged around 3,400 requests and completed around 1,500 reviews.
While we acknowledge the NDIA’s efforts to address review delays, we consider more can and should be done to ensure administrative drift or under-resourcing does not prevent participants from readily exercising their review rights.
Complaints to our Office also highlight other systemic issues such as poor communication about review processes and outcomes. We have made a number of recommendations to help improve communication.
Without significant efforts to improve the timeliness of NDIA’s administration of reviews and communication with participants, there remains a risk that participants’ right to review will be undermined and review processes will continue to lack fairness and transparency and continue to drive a high volume of complaints.