DTA goes back to the future

James Riley
Editorial Director

Four months after plans were unveiled for a powerful new program management office within the Digital Transformation Agency to oversee the Commonwealth’s $6 billion-plus annual technology spend, the unit is up and running.

The so-called Digital Investment Management Office within the DTA will review up to 100 ICT projects between now and the middle of the year to provide government with a better view of project costs, benefits, risks and the status of these initiatives.

Few details were made available beyond a short statement from Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor’s office late yesterday.

The DIMO was central to the restructuring of the Commonwealth’s digital agency formerly known as the Digital Transformation Office. It is the instrument – both as carrot and stick – of financial oversight that the DTA has been given to influence the government’s technology investments across government.

The review of projects will include all non-corporate Commonwealth entities and all active projects over $10 million in value or those that engage a large number of Australians.

The review is expected to report to Government by mid-2017. Its findings are not expected to be made public in any meaningful way, but will provide benchmarks for an on-going program of oversight.

“The DTA will ensure we’re investing in the right technology projects, we can track their implementation, and know they will deliver on the public policy benefits they promise,” Mr Taylor said in a statement.

“This is more than a review, its ongoing oversight, and it will provide unprecedented visibility and centralised management of IT projects.”

One of the key capabilities of the expanded DTA will be to target technology assistance to government departments and agencies, and remediate projects.

“We can always do better – better impact for government by doing more with every dollar and better impact for citizens by providing easier-to-use services.”

The composition of the DTA’s investment management office has not been settled, although reports suggest it is currently staffed by 35 public servants shifted from the Department of Finance.

When the program management office capability was announced as part of the DTA restructure last October, it had been envisioned that it would be lead by senior private sector executives with expertise in driving large-scale tech and change management programs.

No significant external hires were announced yesterday.

The Digital Transformation Agency is starting to take on a 2004 visage. Externally at least, it looks like a back-to-the-future version of AGIMO, the central tech agency set up in the Howard era and hosted within the Department of Finance.

AGIMO suffered a death by a thousand cuts, and its remnants seem to now have been shifted from Finance to the DTA as an agency within the Prime Minister’s department.

The review of major government ICT projects can’t come fast enough for taxpayers, who have watched in wonder at the series of technology failures across the Australian Government – most notably the Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Tax Office, Centrelink, the Child Support Agency, the Department of Defence.

The final shape of the DTA is still an unknown. The agency is still looking for a permanent CEO – although there is talk in the industry that the interim-CEO Nerida O’loughlin may be kept in the role.

While the new Digital Investment Management Office fills the oversight role of the DTA – albeit with scant details of how it will operate – there is still no clear view of how the DTA will build its delivery capability.

Meanwhile, a series of projects that began under the previous DTO regime seem to have been left to wither. Question marks hang over the future of the marketplace, dashboard, cloud, identity, and Gov.Au projects.

Calls to Mr Taylor’s office were not returned yesterday.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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