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National Disability Insurance Agency boss resigns amid speculation over his future

National Disability Insurance Agency boss resigns amid speculation over his future
The chief executive of the National Disability Insurance Agency, Martin Hoffman, had been blamed by Bill Shorten for losing trust of disability community. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

The chief executive of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), Martin Hoffman, has resigned ending weeks of speculation about his future.

Hoffman, who took on the role in November 2019, was heavily criticised during the last government’s term by Labor’s then NDIS spokesman, Bill Shorten, who accused the NDIA leadership of losing the trust of the disability community.

Before the election, Shorten told Guardian Australia that “you have to question the whole leadership of the NDIS in the last few years” and singled out Hoffman, as well as former chair Helen Nugent. Shorten blamed them for the abandoned “independent assessments” proposal that advocates say broke trust between people with disability and the NDIA.

As the new minister, Shorten last week batted away questions about Hoffman’s future.

In a statement on Wednesday, Shorten said he’d been informed the board and Hoffman had agreed the agency boss would step down on 2 July.

“I thank Hoffman for his service and wish him well in his next endeavours,” Shorten said.

Hoffman faced significant pressure over the independent assessments saga, during which several damaging internal leaks pointed to dissatisfaction with the agency’s attempts to clamp down on increasing costs and alter the way the scheme worked.

The proposal, which was eventually dropped by the Morrison government after opposition from the states and disability groups, would have seen applicants for the scheme assessed by government-contracted allied health professionals, rather than their own treating specialists.

Hoffman later said he “deeply regrets” the way the matter was handled.

The agency has been accused of wasteful spending on private lawyers to battle NDIS participants in the courts, amid a huge spike in appeals against reductions to funding packages.

Hoffman apologised this year after Guardian Australia revealed NDIA staff had compiled an “intelligence report” of a woman’s social media posts as it fought unsuccessfully to deny her support.

The NDIA chair, Denis Napthine, said in a statement that during Hoffman’s leadership the scheme had “completed the full transition from the old systems – and grew dramatically with now more than 520,000 participants benefiting”.

“He has also overseen significant participant experience improvements, with an emphasis on digital investment that will deliver further improvements in future,” Napthine said.

“He led the agency with passion, grace and commitment, including managing through the impacts of the Covid pandemic.”

Hoffman said it was an “absolute privilege” to have served in this role for the last three years.

The NDIA’s deputy chief executive, Lisa Studdart, will serve in the position while a replacement is found.

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Shorten said a replacement would be announced in the coming months.

Advocates have already called for the agency to be headed by a person with disability.

The Greens senator Jordon Steele-John, who lives with a disability, accused Hoffman of breaking trust with people with disability, saying the independent assessments proposal had caused stress and trauma.

He said the new chief executive would be tasked with rebuilding trust and that “ideally, this person will be a disabled person”.

Shorten has also been critical of the appointment of Napthine, a former Victorian Liberal premier, who was chosen as chair by the Coalition earlier this year.

Article from the Guardian

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