Houston, we have a problem

Jeff Whalan’s report on the capability of the National Disability Insurance Agency contains two disturbing images. The first is the cover, illustrating Whalan’s conclusion that

“The Agency is like a plane that took off before it had been fully built and is being completed while it is in the air.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 10.36.36 am

The second is this graph, which shows how quickly the NDIA is supposed to ramp up its operations from 2016.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 10.37.02 am

 

To stay on track it will be expected to service almost 450,000 customers by 2018-19.

Given the problems identified by Whalan, many of them politically inflicted, the target is fanciful. Yet the federal government is powerless to alter the timetable.

The NDIA answers in effect to a committee – the COAG Standing Council on Disability Reform. Changing the timetable will be up to them.

The NDIA is not NASA, but the Report of the Columbia Investigation Board provides a textbook study on groupthink and the anatomy of a premature launch.

With the Space Shuttle Columbia in orbit, Flight Director Steve Stitch sent this email to Commander Rick Husband and Pilot William McCool:

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 10.44.36 am

 

As the report remarks, “No one at NASA wants to be the one to stand up and say, ‘We can’t make that date’.”

Whalan’s message, in the words of Tom Hanks, is “Houston, we have a problem.”

 

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24 Responses to Houston, we have a problem

  1. Ant

    …there is absolutely no concern for entry.

    Er, with advice like that it’s more a case of “Houston, we’re screwed.”

  2. johanna

    Stopping this juggernaut before the wheels come off, causing a massive accident, should be a high priority for Abbott.

    There are so many things wrong with the NDIS design that it is hard to identify anything that is right about it. The program is eye-wateringly expensive, but the target group will see little of the money. Opportunities for featherbedding and fraud are built into the design. The wishes and priorities of PWD, their families and carers are buried under a mountain of bureaucracy.

    They need to wipe the slate clean and start again on this one.

  3. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apollo13-wehaveaproblem.ogg for the correct urban legend

    Okay Houston, I believe we’ve had a problem here

    ”Houston, we’ve had a problem” was not their first message, it was the confirmation message

  4. Aussieute

    Time a leader took charge

    This is a brilliant example of where a group of people are making decisions with someone else’s money, with no financial accountability for the outcome.

    All this crap which is supposedly “locked in” is just no on.

    If a former Government legislation is so fucked up and so out of touch with current reality surely the current Govt can say .. “end of the penny section, everyone off” and just close down the legislation.

  5. Judith Sloan

    The problem of sticking to an unrealistic deadline in business is well-known. Corners are cut, standards are lowered, costs blow out and deadline is not met in any case. Oftentimes, whatever objectives were to met are not and the whole project is often junked on the basis of the discrediting features associated with its being rushed.

  6. Uber

    How about some good news? The NSW RTA is about to legalise low speed lane filtering for motorcyclists. This might seem trivial but it reverses every trend of post modern governance we have seen for a decade or more: motorcyclists are about to be allowed more freedom to ride their bikes as they should be ridden. More freedom……

  7. The problem of sticking to an unrealistic deadline in business is well-known. Corners are cut, standards are lowered, costs blow out and deadline is not met in any case. Oftentimes, whatever objectives were to met are not and the whole project is often junked on the basis of the discrediting features associated with its being rushed.

    Known in business, but not in Kevin Rudd’s government – which was about as far from the business sector as you can imagine.

    Hence two-day costings, ‘big ideas’, and back-of-beer coaster NBNs.

    In a consequence-free world, anything goes.

  8. Squirrel

    I trust the Whalan report will be used – as it quite properly could and should – for slowing the pace of the NDIS rollout as crucial work is done on the scope and costs of the scheme. The cover graphic is extraordinary for a report of this sort, and may well be sign of just how bad the problems are (beyond what is said in words), so even if there weren’t big concerns about costs, a serious slow down would seem wise.

    On a point of important detail, a Government looking to strike a blow against the costs of rampant credentialism might take the opportunity to push for a significantly streamlined approach for the training and certification (where necessary) of carers under the NDIS – needs must, as the old saying goes.

    The graph of Estimated Participants is rather terrifying – these costs will be piling up just as the broader demographic pressures on the Budget start ramping up. One hopes the Commission of Audit has done some thoughtful work on this.

  9. Sparkx

    How could a scheme where 70% of the funding was going to administration ever take off. If you want wheels to turn you need to release the brakes. Stuff the people with disabilities, lets give the money to public servants. Yep, Julia was on fire that day.

  10. politichix

    Uber
    #1236427, posted on March 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

    How about some good news? The NSW RTA is about to legalise low speed lane filtering for motorcyclists. This might seem trivial but it reverses every trend of post modern governance we have seen for a decade or more: motorcyclists are about to be allowed more freedom to ride their bikes as they should be ridden. More freedom……

    Seriously? Wow that’s big news! Maybe the ship is slowly turning – you can only hope.

  11. Uber

    Yes it’s true politichix. I’m still a little dazed by it, it’s like a ray of sunshine in winter.

  12. brc

    I don’t get this ‘out of our hands, it’s up to the committee’ business. Sure, labor created these little land mines everywhere, just so they can campaign ‘tony abbott riled x billion from disabled people’.

    But they have to get the budget under control. So just trash the thing and start again. Explain to people that it is badly designed, and money will be wasted if they continue. The easiest spending to and back is the one that hasn’t started yet.

  13. Baldrick

    Another brainless scheme introduced by Gillard/Rudd & Co. with little detail and very little funding.
    It’s all going to end in taxpayer tears and it starts with your 2014 tax return and the increased Medicare levy.

  14. Infidel Tiger

    “From the Director who brought you the blockbuster disaster known as N B N, now comes the terrifying new thriller reaping carnage across the country – N D I S…”

  15. caveman

    “The Agency is like a plane that took off before it had been fully built and is being completed while it is in the air.”

    In the real world the plane would not be allowed to take off.
    But the NDIA was formed when pixies roamed free and unicorns would sit on your back porch.

    Remember NASA brought you the six million dollar man…do..do.do..do…do….do…..do……..

  16. Demosthenes

    “The Agency is like a plane that took off before it had been fully built and is being completed while it is in the air.”

    This is literally what is happening with the JSF.

  17. bobby b

    Stitch sent that message knowing that, even if the tile failure and impact really WAS of consequence, there wasn’t eff-all they could do about it.

    Given the situation concerning the NDIA today, I’m not sure anyone could do eff-all about it anymore, either.

    So, I guess, to look at the bright side, we just need to keep in mind that the Columbia mission turned out okay.

    Uh, wait . . .

  18. Federal disability enrollments rose by twice as much as employment did since Obama was elected.

  19. Tintarella di Luna

    Thanks Nick for looking at this. If there were to be had a review of the setting up of this Scheme like the Pink Bats madness the similarities would have been uncanny, but we are talking Gillard here. Abbott wrote to the Heartless Harridan on no less than THREE occasions to establish a Joint Select Committee co-chaired by the two major parties with representatives from the Misanthropes and other minor nitwits because the Scheme has such a long lead-in time and would be implemented over the life of several parliaments.

    But of course Heartless Harridan thrice refused (I can’t say if there was a cock involved but…) —-only in about March last year (three months before the scheme was to launch) the Heartless Harridan consented to a Joint Select committee —John Walsh who is an amazing, bright fantastic man who was on the Productivity Commission and help do much of the actuarial work said of the early launch that it was “ambitious” hmmmm quite so

  20. Tintarella di Luna

    Another brainless scheme introduced by Gillard/Rudd & Co. with little detail and very little funding.
    It’s all going to end in taxpayer tears and it starts with your 2014 tax return and the increased Medicare levy.

    Well when the Scheme was in prospect the Gillard government funded the launch with 1.2 billion over the four year lead-in to the full rollout. But don’t forget that for three of the four years of the lead-in i.e. to 2016/2017 there is $3.3 billion which the increased Medicare Levy will bring in but it is unclear whether that money will in fact be applied to the Scheme or if it will just remain in general revenue (where of course ALL levies go)

  21. Alfonso

    After the first shuttle disaster a command astronaut, ie an engineering test pilot , John Young, was put in de facto charge of shuttle operations. Single dimensional specialist engineers do not have the overall perspective required. Airlines discovered that many decades ago. Apparently by the second disaster event Nasa had forgotten that lesson.

  22. James B

    All they need to do is defund it in the budget so it can’t do anything. Then scrap it after a few years.

  23. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    “To stay on track it will be expected to service almost 450,000 customers by 2018-19.”

    Am I to believe that people hobbling about on grief leave, because the boss asked them to finish their work on time, will ramp up to support half a million wholly dependent on government in just six years time?

    I wonder will the CEO of the NDIS miss out on his performance bonus if he doesn’t convince the half million number to down tools and wobble around on their walking frame.

    This stupid idea is going to pan out as it did with the aboriginal population – less than 2.5% of the total and diminishing until the funds started pouring forth, then rocketing upwards since with no discernible change in the birth rate.

  24. Mr McGoo

    What is the “insurance” part of NDIS? There is no insurance. It is just another taxpayer funded scheme.

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