Former Investigator for Australia’s Disability Insurance Scheme Flags Fraud Woes

February 16, 2020Australia
Former Investigator for Australia’s Disability Insurance Scheme Flags Fraud Woes
A patient waits outside St Vincents Hospital in Sydney, Australia, on May 1, 2013. (Getty Images/Getty Images)

A former fraud investigator for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) says too few people are dealing with fraud in the system.

John Higgins worked in the NDIS fraud taskforce and then the National Disability Insurance Agency’s own fraud investigation department, between January and September last year.

Higgins, who had previously worked with the Australian Federal Police for 27 years, says there are only about 15 people all up, trying to deal with fraud in the scheme.

“It’s simply too much fraud for too few people,” Higgins told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

The NDIS is set to provide A$22 billion in funding annually within the next five years.

Australia and NDIS
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 01: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard talks to the media at a press conference at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Office on May 1, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. Gillard has announced that the Federal Government will increase the Medicare levy on income tax from 1.5 to two percent to help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The levy will begin on July 1, 2014 and is expected to raise around $3.2 billion annually towards the NDIS which is expected to cost $8 billion per year. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Higgins says management told him they were willing to accept about 10 per cent of the funds being distributed being lost to fraud.

“I just became too frustrated with it and told them I couldn’t continue. The management of the fraud department was almost dysfunctional.”

Higgins approached Labor’s NDIS spokesman former opposition leader Bill Shorten after leaving the authority, stressing the issue must be dealt with.

“It’s like a chip in a windscreen. If you don’t do anything about it, it’s going to become a big crack and you’re going to have to replace the windscreen,” he said.

Shorten says the comments show the government needs to go harder on people “looting” the scheme.

“This government is not doing enough to prevent, detect and catch people who are ripping the scheme off,” he told reporters, alongside Higgins.

The NDIA said in a statement it does not comment on the operational capability of the fraud taskforce, a multiagency partnership between the AFP, NDIA, and Services Australia established in mid-2018.
But it stressed the taskforce has been integral to investigating and prosecuting fraud against NDIS participants, including the conviction in July of Mohamed Osman Omar in the Victorian County Court.

Omar swindled A$370,336 and attempted to get anotherA$85,099 from the scheme in 2018, and was sentenced to at least two-and-a-half years behind bars.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert says the creation of the taskforce showed the federal government’s commitment to finding and dealing with those swindling the NDIS or participants.

“Anyone caught defrauding the NDIS can and will be dealt with through the criminal justice system. Anyone who tries to defraud NDIS participants will face the consequences,” he said in a statement.

By Marnie Banger

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