More than half of all staff at the Digital Transformation Agency left in the 12 months following a significant restructure that stripped it of technology and service delivery responsibilities.
Figures contained in the agency’s 2021-22 annual report, released on Tuesday, reveal staff turnover reached 60.6 per cent last financial year, while the average staffing level (ASL) fell from 266 to 218.
The agency said machinery of government (MoG) changes that shifted functions relating to myGov and digital identity to Services Australia and the Tax Office in July 2021 contributed to the separation rate, which it acknowledged was “much higher than in previous years”.
“This was not unexpected, as the DTA’s previous delivery mandate required a workforce with digital project, program and delivery capabilities,” the annual report said, adding that the “agency’s revised role required less of these capabilities”.
Now in its third iteration, the DTA has taken on a new mandate as the federal government’s digital advisor, focusing almost exclusively on strategic planning, investment, contestability, assurance and digital sourcing.
But even when excluding turnover associated with the MoG changes, the separation rate was 47.3 per cent last financial year, according to the report. This is far higher than the Australian Public Service average and about 10 per cent more than the agency’s worst previous result.
Since the DTA was spawned as a pet project of the former Turnbull government in 2016-17, its separation rate has hovered between a low of 15.9 per cent in 2019-20 and 37 per cent in 2016-17.
According to the annual report, around 70 per cent of the of the almost 150 staff that left the DTA in 2021-22 have “remained in the APS, where their digital delivery expertise can be put to best use in service delivery agencies”,
The DTA also had a staff attraction rate of 34 per cent in 2021-22, giving it the “specialist digital oversight capabilities required to deliver [on its] mandate”.
For the staff that remained, the agency introduced a speaker series in response to a survey that revealed a “strong desire for clarify around the DTA’s roles and responsibilities”. The series sought to “provide staff with core skills and insights” related to its new oversight, assurance and advisory role.
Last month, the agency was heavily criticised by the Australian National Audit Office for sourcing practices on nine key procurements between 2019 and 2021 that were “ineffective” and “fell short of ethical requirements”.
Despite the poor audit result, budget papers released on Tuesday night show the number of DTA staff is set to grow from an ASL of 218 in 2021-22 to 264 in 2022-23. In the March budget, staffing was forecast to reach 257.
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