Alarms raised over secret Salesforce gifts to NDIA officials


A parliamentary committee has identified key concerns in breaches of procurement rules, ethical requirements and gifts policies by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit’s final report found the NDIA accepted hundreds of secret gifts and hospitality from global IT provider, Salesforce, during the time it had secured several government contracts.

The report also focused on the tender process for the NDIA’s customer relationship platform, PACE, and how the contract secured by Salesforce seemed to undergo several price variations.

“It was perplexing that the value for money assessments in this procurement gave no explicit weighting to price as a key factor in scoring and ranking proposals,” Committee Chair, Julian Hill MP, said.

“The sizes of the contract variations were significant, now $135 million up from $27 million at inception… A substantial proportion was due to significant changes in scope. Other vendors were basically denied the opportunity to tender for the product ultimately being delivered.”

The final report also found several breaches of the NDIA’s Gifts and Hospitality policies by its officials with Salesforce representatives.

“Although NDIA gave evidence that no declarations of any hospitality relating to this contract were made by its staff, Salesforce subsequently provided written evidence of more than 100 instances of hospitality and/or gifts, including meals, drinks and golf outings, passing to NDIA officials over an almost five-year period.

“This was before and after the award of the contract, and throughout the period of contract variations. The premise stated by NDIA for its hospitality policy is that none of its officials should accept gifts that could be seen to compromise their integrity. This was clearly not followed.”

The inquiry’s interim report, released in September 2023, also found showed involvement of consulting firm, Synergy 360, in assisting vendors to gain government IT contracts.

The final report then uncovered further involvement of Synergy 360 in dealings with Salesforce and the PACE system tender process, finding that the consulting firm made an “unsolicited approach to Salesforce… and that the meetings took place between former Minister Stuart Robert, Synergy 360 and Salesforce before and after the awarding of the [PACE system] contract”.

“Three meetings with former Minister Robert occurred with no written records available of what was discussed or evidence that other potential vendors who were not Synergy 360 clients were afforded similar access. Ultimately Salesforce secured a major government contract and later benefited from a series of lucrative variations,” Hill said.

As a result of the report, the committee has requested that the Department of Finance and the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) lead the next steps to understand where and how much “inappropriate cultivation of Commonwealth officials may be occurring by major ICT vendors”.

Hill also requested Salesforce, within three months of the final report being tabled, submit details or records of all hospitality provided to Commonwealth officials within the last three years and whether it was approved by Salesforce’s Office of Global Ethics and Integrity.