DTA offloads COVIDSafe, other projects in shake-up

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The Digital Transformation Agency has confirmed it will move several high value technology projects to other agencies, including management of the controversial COVIDSafe app, as part of sweeping machinery of government changes.

The offload is part of a shift for the one-time delivery agency to one focused on policy development, and follows a significant budget cut and portfolio move this year.

Peter Alexander
Acting chief executive Peter Alexander said the shift from project delivery to policy advice is a “vote of confidence” in the Digital Transformation Agency.

But the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) says the changes actually “strengthen” its mandate as the government’s “chief digital advisor”.

In a new Corporate Plan released this week, the DTA’s previous priorities of leading government service transformation and delivery, technology projects and digital skills have been scrapped for a new focus on “direction setting” and “implementation oversight”.

DTA acting chief executive Peter Alexander said the agency will continue to play a leading role in the Coalition government’s $1.2 billion Digital Economy strategy.

“To help deliver on its ambition, the government has implemented significant changes to strengthen the DTA’s mandate,” Mr Alexander said in the Corporate Plan 2021–22 foreword.

“The DTA has changed from a focus on delivering digital and ICT projects to being a trusted advisor to government on strategic planning, investment, contestability and assurance.

“As the government’s Chief Digital Advisor from 1 July 2021, the DTA is responsible for providing strategic and policy leadership on whole-of-government and shared information and communications technology investments and digital service delivery.”

Mr Alexander, who is acting chief executive after the departure of Randall Brugeaud in June, said the DTA will continue to manage whole-of-government digital procurement and “lead the development, delivery and monitoring of whole-of-government strategies, policies and standards”.

Earlier this year the DTA was shifted from Services Australia to the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, and weeks later had its resourcing slashed $90 million in the May budget.

The new plan confirms a change in direction outlined earlier this year by employment Minister Stuart Robert, who took responsibility for the DTA with him to his new portfolio. Following the May budget, the agency confirmed the changes would mean responsibility for technology projects would shift away from the DTA.

The new corporate plan includes the full list of projects moving away from the DTA, including the controversial COVIDSafe contact tracing app, which will now be managed by the Department of Health.

The machinery of government changes effective 5 July 2021 are:

  • ICT Investment Approval Process – from the Department of Finance to DTA
  • Whole of Government Procurement of Major Office Machines – from the Department of Finance to DTA
  • Digital Identity (integrated delivery management) – from DTA to Services Australia and the Australian Taxation Office
  • myGov Enhancement (integrated delivery management) – from DTA to Services Australia
  • australia.gov.au – from DTA to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (determining content), and Services Australia (delivery)
  • Government Domain Names – from DTA to the Department of Finance
  • National Map – from DTA to Geoscience Australia
  • data.gov.au – from DTA to the Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • COVIDSafe app – from DTA to the Department of Health
  • Australian Government Style Manual – from DTA to the Australian Public Service Commission
  • Digital Profession – from DTA to the Australian Public Service Commission.

Mr Alexander said the DTA will take back some key investment oversight and assurance functions from the Department of Finance and, in line with the new role, the agency’s workforce would be restructured.

“We are restructuring our workforce, resources and capability to align with this new strategic leadership role, and as the year progresses, we will assess lessons learned and continue to refine and embed our new ways of operating,” he said.

The DTA’s staffing level was cut from 255 to 227 in the last budget, and it has relied heavily on labour hire as a delivery agency in the past.

“The 2021–22 financial year marks a key turning point for the DTA and a significant vote of confidence in the DTA’s ability to take on this strategic leadership role,” Mr Alexander said.

The agency’s 2020/21 purpose statement was “simple, clear and fast public services” while the latest has been updated to: “Provide strategic and policy leadership and investment advice and oversight to drive government digital transformation that delivers benefits to all Australians.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

  1. Paul 3 years ago

    The decent thing would be to put this failed experiment out of its misery

  2. Digital Koolaid 3 years ago

    Re-structure. Re-shape. Re-write remit. Re-history. Re-name? That happened to the NOIE. How’s the “Digital Advice Agency” sound? That could work for me. How does the Digital Money Tree sound? Digital Treasure Agency ? Then you could still use DTA and no need to change the URL … Perhaps I think it was only ever about finessing the $10+ Billion IT spend. Perhaps …

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