SUBJECTS: NDIS rorting; Fraud Fusion Taskforce
DAVID PENBERTHY, HOST: Bill Shorten is the Minister for Government services and the Minister responsible for the NDIS. He was also a huge champion of it before its creation. Bill, we - Dave Penberthy here. We were absolutely smashed yesterday with messages, that actually gave really specific examples of some of the rorting that's going on, a lot of it involving maintenance, maintenance, and gardening. How concerned are you as Minister about the integrity of the NDIS amid these sorts of revelations?
BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Very. The NDIS is changing lives. It's doing a great thing for a lot of people, but there is a long tail of unacceptable rorts. The reason why you got the calls yesterday was in part the story in The Advertiser. I put the story in The Advertiser to tell people what we're doing to start catching out these crooks. So, you know, I think some of the complaints are ugly and they need to be pursued. It's not acceptable for some service providers to be ripping off people with disability and ripping off the scheme. But the very fact that we're talking about is because at long last, someone's getting on with trying to expose the fraud.
PENBERTHY: What happens to these people that get caught up with Minister? What kind of penalties do you get for stuffing around with the NDIS?
SHORTEN: Well, a straight criminal activity is dealt with by criminal courts. But I think there's been too much focus on educating people and not enough about compliance. So, at the moment there is north of $400 million in payments being investigated. My job is to make sure that every dollar in the scheme goes to participants. This is just the beginning. I want the rent seekers to know that, you know, I know some people don't like the politics, but under the previous government anything went, and it shouldn't have. We are now beginning to catch crooks. As of June, of this year, there are close to 60 active cases being investigated. I mean, you've got to have an investigation process. You can't convict and then investigate. But this is almost double what we saw from when I came to power. And in terms of the amount of money under investigation, there's been a 300% increase. I must stress, though, that I don't want a general pile on against people on the NDIS. It's an investment. It's changing lives, it's helping kids, it's helping adults, it's helping carers. But there is an unacceptable level of unethical behaviour. Unethical behaviour covers everything from downright criminality, crime, gangs, sort of coercing people to put in the wrong claims, through to what I would just simply say is maybe sharp business. It mightn't be illegal though it should be, that is overcharging under servicing. You know, not doing the right thing by participants and we - simply it's got to stop and we're going to do everything we can. We set up a what's called a Fraud Fusion Taskforce. I set that up actually within 4 or 5 months of coming into power. And for the first time, we're getting the different agencies talking to each other. You can use data, you can notice patterns in behaviour, and in the past, they just got a free pass.
PENBERTHY: When you say Bill Shorten, that these cases are under investigation, does that mean they're under investigation by like investigators working for the NDIS or is it something that the state police forces have to get involved with?
SHORTEN: So, let me clarify that, that's a good question. The Fraud Fusion Taskforce is a combination of police agencies, the Tax Office and the National Disability Insurance Agency.
PENBERTHY: Right, okay.
SHORTEN: So, it's a collective cross response. And, you know, I mean, ever since the Rum Corps and, you know, the old colony of Sydney back in the 1700s, some people have thought that when you see government money, that it's just there to help yourself. That's not the case. This scheme is set up by the Australian people to look after the most profoundly disabled in our community. That's who the money should go to and it's funding for outcomes, not just anything. So, you know, I get some complaints don't stack up. They're just neighbours who are looking over the back fence at someone else and being jealous. But other complaints do stack up. We've seen a massive jump in the number of complaints. That's because at long last, something might happen.
PENBERTHY: Yeah, about time. Good stuff. Bill Shorten, the Minister for Government Services there. Thank you for joining us this morning.