(Second Reading Debate, 11 May 2022, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I thank the member for North Shore for her patience and for letting me jump in. I support the State Insurance and Care Legislation Amendment Bill, which will implement some of the recommendations of the independent McDougall review and the standing committee inquiry into icare.
The aim is to strengthen oversight of insurers under the workers compensation scheme and to clarify the roles and obligations of icare and the State Insurance Regulatory Authority. I thank the Opposition, The Greens and other crossbenchers for their work over many years to strengthen oversight and accountability of icare.
I will support the Opposition's amendment to remove the regulation-making power on commutations and welcome the Government's commitment to do further work and bring a detailed plan to expand access to claims back to the Parliament. The amendment will achieve a better outcome for workers and I congratulate the member for Canterbury and the Hon. Daniel Mookhey in the other place. I foreshadow that I intend to move amendments to introduce a mandatory rigorous procurement oversight process that the Nominal Insurer must follow. The Opposition raised the need for reform in this space, and I am currently working with the Government to achieve what we hope to be a transparent and workable process. Everyone in this place agrees that legislation is required to strengthen public confidence in icare and that is what the bill seeks to achieve. This House must protect and support injured workers and that is what we are working to achieve with the bill.
(Debate on Amendments, 18 May 2022, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I thank the Opposition for its focus on improving the transparency of icare. I will be putting forward an alternative proposal that is a simple amendment that will ensure that icare follows appropriate procedures in the best interests of injured workers and employers. I will not be supporting the Opposition amendment, but I will be proposing my own alternative.
I move my amendment No. 1 on sheet c2022-086A:
No. 1 Reporting
Page 4, Schedule 1. Insert after line 2— [5A] Section 11A
Insert after section 11—
11A Report of procurement of goods and services
ICNSW must, before 31 October in each year, prepare and present to the Minister a report of the following matters for the year ending on the preceding 30 June—
(a) the activities of ICNSW, in acting for the Nominal Insurer, involving an exempt procurement,
(b) an explanation of the reasons for each exempt procurement.
- The Minister must lay the report or cause it to be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as practicable after receiving the report.
- In this section— exempt procurement means a procurement of goods and services that—
(a) is conducted otherwise than in accordance with thePublic Works and Procurement Act 1912, section 176, and
(b) would, if the Nominal Insurer were a government agency within the meaning of the Public Works and Procurement Act 1912, Part 11, be required to be conducted in accordance with that section.
The purpose of the bill is to improve public confidence in icare. With that comes the need for new transparency and oversight measures, which is what this amendment seeks to achieve. The McDougall review recommended that icare be bound by the procurement and probity framework to, at a minimum, the processes used by government agencies following a thorough assessment. In response, icare reviewed its procurement procedures and adopted a process in line with New South Wales Government requirements and expectations. However, the Nominal Insurer was exempted because of the competitive market it operates in.
The exemption is not blanket, however. The default position for icare is now to follow normal New South Wales Government procurement processes, with a mechanism for probity when the exemption is used. That mechanism requires an icare executive to provide a briefing note on the rationale for the procurement, the reason for the exemption, details of the contract, a risk analysis and a mitigation strategy to the icare board. The briefing note is then discussed at the next board meeting, where a final decision is made and minuted. If a procurement needs to proceed before a board meeting, it can, based on the briefing note alone. However, this is only done for urgent matters. I understand that it has only occurred once.
Since 2021 the board has not approved any new contracts outside New South Wales Government procurement procedures, except to renew eight legacy contracts that were required in the interim while a new contract was established through tender processes in line with New South Wales Government procurement policies. I accept that the Nominal Insurer needs the level of flexibility the current procedures provide, but the community needs certainty that exemptions are only ever used for the benefit of injured workers and employers in the scheme.
My amendment will add new transparency and oversight to this process by requiring icare to provide the Minister with an annual report for tabling in Parliament on instances when the exemption is used, showing the reason for its use. The Parliament will be able to investigate how the exemption was applied and take action if normal New South Wales Government procurement processes are not being applied appropriately. This simple amendment will ensure that icare follows appropriate procedures in the best interests of injured workers and employers. I commend the amendment.