The Australian12:00AM July 17, 2018
Social Affairs WriterSydney
Another “spill and fill” in the most senior ranks of the National Disability Insurance Agency has replaced even more executive staff with contractors and revised other positions, forcing long-term employees to reapply for their jobs.
The new executive structure, leaked to The Australian, will begin at the end of the month with agency staff saying “morale is at its lowest” point.
Half of the eight most senior staff, who report directly to NDIA chief executive Rob De Luca, are independent contractors, including chief information officer Ian Frew, who is struggling to fix a computer meltdown that has lingered for more than two months.
In the layer below of 84 expert advisers and general, branch and state managers, 18 are now independent contractors.
Many of these have not yet been appointed. For example, of the 26 employees who report directly to Michael Francis, the deputy CEO in charge of participants and planning, 22 are vacant and subject to an “expression of interest”.
Under the old structure — as at June 6 — the agency employed regional managers responsible for parts of different states and territories including Victoria north, west and east; and south, central and west Queensland.
These positions appear to have been axed and replaced with state managers in charge of two states each except for Queensland and Western Australia, which each have their own manager.
The Northern Territory, one of the most complex rollout sites for the $22 National Disability Insurance Scheme because of its remoteness and indigenous population, no longer has its own manager and shares a staff member with South Australia.
While positions relating to participant experience have been culled, the deputy CEO in charge of strategy and risk — Anthony Vella, a contractor — has gained four senior direct reports.
So, too, has Antonia Albanese, who is in charge of markets and provider development.
The Australian previously revealed four former Bankwest employees had started in senior positions at the NDIA.
In this reshuffle, Luke Napolitano, who was state manager of business banking in Victoria, has started with the agency, managing property and procurement.
Mr De Luca was the managing director of Bankwest for five years before he was headhunted by then social services minister Christian Porter to head the NDIA.
The agency has previously received legal advice from the office of the Australian Government Solicitor warning that its over-reliance on contractors could breach either Fair Work or public service legislation regarding employment terms.
“If the agency purports to engage an individual as an independent contractor who is, as a matter of law, properly characterised as an employee who should be engaged under the Public Service Act, this may constitute a breach of … the Fair Work Act,” the AGS senior general counsel, Mark Molloy, wrote last year.
“Furthermore, in our view, if the agency head (or delegate) purports to engage independent contractors who are not ‘consultants’, this may constitute a breach of the public service code of conduct which, among other things, requires compliance with Australian laws, including the NDIS Act.”
A spokesman for the NDIA said the agency “has a mix of Australian public service (APS) staff, contractors, consultants and secondments from other APS agencies to deliver the scale of transformation required, and to assist in building and developing the NDIS”.
He said the contracts for individuals employed by the NDIA were all subject to personnel in-confidence arrangements.
“All senior appointments are merit-based and have been made following the appropriate process,” he said.