Martin Hoffman has been appointed chief executive of the National Disability Insurance Agency for a three-year term starting on November 4.
Hoffman, who was a department head in the New South Wales public service until April this year, will take over the challenging job fresh from a short-term role guiding a program of reform in the Department of Human Services signified by its rebranding as Services Australia.
“I am tremendously honoured to have the opportunity to work with participants, the staff and partners of the NDIA, providers and the disability sector to deliver on the promise of the NDIS for each participant,” Hoffman said.
Echoing the NDIA board’s announcement, the minister responsible for Services Australia and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stuart Robert, said the new CEO of the NDIA had “a long and distinguished history of senior leadership roles in service delivery in both the public and private sectors, leading high performing organisations while growing customer satisfaction and staff engagement” and “deep expertise in digital transformation”.
The minister also announced the agency would take on an extra 800 staff this financial year, not contractors but Australian Public Service members who would be “capable of exercising delegations” under the relevant legislation. He said that would boost the agency’s average staffing level to around 4000 for the 2020-21 financial year. As the scheme has rolled out, various experts and advocates have repeatedly pointed out that in the Productivity Commission’s original vision, the agency at the centre of it would employ around 10,000 staff.
The government expects the number of NDIS participants to grow to about 500,000 in the next five years. Robert said it had “committed to resolving existing issues and introducing a Participant Service Guarantee to support a positive participant experience” by the end of this financial year.
“Mr Hoffman has the dedication, vision, and expertise to lead delivery of the transformational National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for the benefit of each eligible participant,” the minister said in a statement.
“He will build on the ground-breaking work already underway and will make a real difference in delivering on the government’s commitment to realising the full benefits of the Scheme for participants.
“I also wish to acknowledge the contribution of Ms Vicki Rundle PSM who has acted as CEO of the NDIA since April of this year, her commitment and dedication to the NDIS is highly valued.”
Dr Helen Nugent, who chairs the NDIA board, said Hoffman would bring “critical capability” to the role.
“The Board has appointed a leader who is deeply skilled, who is committed to people with disability and their families, who understands the importance of improving social and economic outcomes for participants, and who has the expertise to further lift the quality of the participant experience. He will also inspire staff and partners and improve the underlying processes and technology with which participants and providers need to interact,” Nugent said.
The NDIA has been led by Rundle since April, when former chief Robert De Luca resigned and took up a role as CEO of a company in the business of providing disability support services, and the board’s statement said it was “indebted to Vicki for her leadership, dedication and commitment” over that time.
Shadow minister Bill Shorten recently questioned why it had taken so long to appoint a new chief executive and said there had been “an exodus of senior executives” and dysfunctional management at the NDIA, leading to delays for participants.
Hoffman is the former secretary of the New South Wales Department of Finance, Services and Innovation but was left without a job earlier this after a major restructure that saw the nation’s first Department of Customer Service built from the former DFSI, and reduced the number of secretary roles to fill.
This experience meant he was well placed to lead the Services Australia transition taskforce, as the federal government is ostensibly modelling its service delivery reform on the NSW government’s highly regarded improvements in transactional services, delivered through ServiceNSW, which have been guided by a strong focus on customer satisfaction.
Hoffman is also president of the Institute of Public Administration Australia, NSW division, and moved into the public sector after a career as a media industry executive. Previously the CEO of Ninemsn (now nine.com.au), he moved into the Australian Public Service in 2009, starting in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and later rising up the ranks to become a deputy secretary in the federal industry department.