Australia’s National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has been paying $3.7 million to rent office space. That might be a steep amount to pay, but that’s not the reason why the NDIA is now dealing with a lot of criticism coming from all directions.
The reason why Australians are so riled up over the tenancy agreement is the fact that the NDIA used $3.7 million in taxpayer money to rent office space from Sportsbet.
The disability insurance program that is responsible for supporting over 430,000 Australians with disabilities defended its decision to rent working spaces from a sports betting provider by saying that the agreement represented value for money. However, it’s fair to say that the insurance agency is having to deal with a lot of backlash for its decision right now.
No Rules Banning Agreements with Betting Companies
The NDIA started the Sportsbet contract in 2018. In it, the government insurance agency agreed to sublet office space from the Aussie bookmaker in the Mirvac building in central Melbourne.
Now, no law bans government agencies such as the NDIA to enter into agreements with gambling or sports betting providers. However, according to Tim Costello of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, spending taxpayer money in this way was “distasteful” and “damaging”.
Mr Costello said that what the NDIS was doing was extraordinary and he couldn’t understand how a government agency would pay rent money to a gambling company.
Wastage of Disability Scheme Funds
What makes the whole matter worse is the fact that the Sportsbet rent revelation comes at a time when Government Services Minister Stuart Robert has been talking at length about the wastage of funds from the disability program by Australians with disabilities.
Mr Robert said that the corporate decisions the agency made in 2018 have nothing to do with the reforms on the agency the government was planning to undertake at this moment.
A Standard Sub-Lease Agreement
An NDIA spokesperson defended the 2018 agreement by saying that all deals they entered into represented value for money, and that’s why they rejected any “suggestion of improper spending”.
The spokesperson said that the NDIA’s tenancy was a standard sub-lease agreement and that it had nothing to do with normalizing the relationship between government-formed agencies and betting companies.