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NDIA tear up LAC tenders

Last week, the NDIA took the stunning step of terminating its PITC tenders, reopening questions about the program’s design into the future.

By Sara Gingold

Updated 15 Apr 20246 Sept 2022

Last Tuesday, the NDIA took the stunning step of cancelling its Partners in the Community (PITC) program tender. This news must have come as a shock to tender applicants, whose submissions were due on 14 June. The tender process began on 15 March under the previous government.

The cancellation means that, for the time being, existing Local Area Coordination (LAC) and Early Childhood Partner (ECP) arrangements will remain in place.

The terminated tender foreshadowed drastic changes to the PITC program, including

  • A move away from partners undertaking budget development activities at some unspecified date in the future;
  • Increasing the upper age limit for early childhood from six to nine;
  • Giving partners a very vague “assessment and information gathering” role;
  • A greater focus on connecting people to mainstream services;
  • Moving to a payment in arrears system for partners. 

All these changes are now on hold.

The decision was framed in the context of bringing forward the Productivity Commission’s 10-year anniversary review into the design, operations, and sustainability of the NDIS. The review was due to take place next year, but the government promised during the election campaign that it would be done this year instead. We’re still waiting on a formal announcement about the review, but NDIS Minister Bill Shorten recently told Dr George Taleporos on the Reasonable and Necessary podcast that more information would be provided in the coming weeks.

The NDIA has stated that it will use the review’s recommendations to redesign the PITC program. They will also be conducting co-design initiatives to explore how the program can meet the needs of people with disability. Given that the NDIA is meant to be co-design’s newest convert, the lack of community engagement before the release of the initial tender certainly raised some eyebrows.

The Agency’s remarkable about-face can probably be summed up as a case of a new government meaning new rules. The tender was released as the country was preparing for the 2022 election to be officially called. Once an election campaign begins, the government is in caretaker mode and can no longer issue tenders of this magnitude. Beginning such a significant tender process right before going into caretaker mode was technically legal but not exactly within the spirit of the rules. Minister Shorten was obviously less than impressed with the process and was unwilling to sign contracts that would commit the government to the new PITC program design.  

The press release also said, “The NDIA thanks all tenderers for their submissions to the PITC program Request for Tender and acknowledges the time, commitment and preparation involved.”

This acknowledgment is probably not enough to mollify tender applicants, who must be incredibly frustrated right now. Submissions of this size are a gigantic feat, and providers would have poured tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of resources into preparing them. The justifications for terminating the tender are certainly valid, but it’s a shame that it had to come to this. Only last year, another government decision forced the Agency to tear up the contracts for the Independent Assessment program. While of us celebrated this news, we want to ensure going forward that the NDIA doesn’t develop a reputation as an unreliable government partner. It is in everyone’s interest for the PITC program to receive quality applications, and organisations might consider these tenders too much of a risk. 

You can read the full press release here.

Authors

Sara Gingold

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