The agency in charge of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has been accused by more academics of misrepresenting expert evidence in its efforts to justify the introduction of mandatory independent assessments.
After NDIA chief executive Martin Hoffman was last week forced to apologise to academic Ros Madden after she complained that her views were being misused, two more experts have contacted the agency's boss with similar grievances.
Labor's NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten said the Morrison government had been caught "tampering with expert evidence" in an effort to "steamroll through" its controversial new participant assessment system.
The Canberra Times can reveal University of New South Wales professor Valsamma Eapen and professor Andrew Whitehouse from disability group Autism CRC have written to Mr Hoffman to "respectfully request" that the agency stop using their comments without proper context.
The agency's submission to the parliamentary inquiry examining independent assessments cited the two experts as among the "leading Australian academics" who endorsed the broad framework and assessment tools for the new system.
The submission quoted Prof Whitehouse as saying the "[independent assessment framework] is consistent with international best practice".
"It has great potential to increase the accuracy of assessment, which is a critical foundation in determining the most appropriate supports for each individual," Prof Whitehouse was quoted as saying in the submission.
Prof Eapen was quoted in the submission as saying the framework would "undoubtedly enhance the development of effective programs matching each individual's functional level and needs, thereby optimising outcomes".
In separate letters to the secretary of the parliamentary committee, the two academics emphasised that their endorsements were provided in response to a discussion paper on the proposed framework published in August 2020.
The pair said that since the paper had been published "considerable further detail has been released" on the government's plan for independent assessments.
That meant their comments included in the submission were no longer directly relevant.
"I have written to the chief executive officer of the National Disability Insurance Agency, Mr Martin Hoffman, to respectfully request that any future use of this quote is done with this context clearly provided," Prof Eapen said in her letter to the secretary.
Prof Whitehouse made the same request using almost identical language.
An NDIA spokesman said any suggestion it had "tampered" with evidence was unfounded. The spokesman noted that neither letter made reference to any "misquoting".
But the spokesman said it would honour the pair's request and make sure that any future use of their quotes included extra context.
"The NDIA is in the process of contacting the professors to discuss their request and thanks them both for their valuable expert contributions," the spokesman said.
The pair's requests were not as forceful as Dr Maddens', who in a letter to Mr Hoffman demanded the agency "immediately stop" quoting her as being in support of its current approach to independent assessments.
Dr Madden, who like Prof Whitehouse and Prof Eapen provided advice to the agency on its August paper but not subsequently, said it was "surprising" and "distressing" that her views had been misrepresented.
Mr Hoffman later apologised to Dr Madden and wrote to the parliamentary committee to correct the record.
Mr Shorten said Mr Hoffman and new NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds must now apologise to the professors.
He accused Senator Reynolds of using "every trick in the book" to push through independent assessments, which are strongly opposed by disability groups, academics, health professionals, Labor and the Greens.
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