Tectonic plates are shifting inside Canberra’s ICT bureaucracy as the new Digital Transformation Agency ingests large chunks of the Finance Department and metamorphoses into a tech super agency.
The executive orders to gut the Finance Department of its ICT procurement and policy development roles and shift them into Prime Minister and Cabinet’s DTA were succinct.
Last Thursday, the Governor-General signed a one page Administrative Arrangements Order that stripped responsibility for whole of government information and communications policy and ICT procurement policy out of Finance and plopped it into PM&C’s DTA.
With that deep rumblings have begun. There’s $5.6 billion worth of ICT spend and a bunch of Finance staff to be pumped across to the new tech super agency.
How many people will be ushered over from Finance to DTA and how long it takes for them to put up tents remains to be seen. The new DTA will need a Machinery of Government (MoG) order drawn up to formalise all the changes and set down staff numbers and budgets.
Angus Taylor, the Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation and Cities whose portfolio covers DTA, does not yet know exactly how many staff will be affected or precisely how long the DTA transformation process will take.
“Senior executives of affected portfolios will be working closely together to settle any financial and staffing implications of these changes, including any transfer of functions and staff from the Finance portfolio,” said a spokesperson for Mr Taylor.
“The Agency will also have a strengthened mandate to design, develop, coordinate, deliver and monitor digital services and delivery platforms.
“The government is working to implement these changes as a matter of priority, and Assistant Minister Taylor expects to be making further announcements on key steps in coming weeks,” the spokesperson said.
Nerida O’Loughlin has been wheeled in as Interim CEO of the DTA. Ms O’Loughlin, who was Deputy Secretary in the Department of Communications and the Arts, looks set for a very busy silly season.
She will need to smooth ruffled feathers and quickly organise efficient chains of command, so as to get cracking on DTA’s ambitious agenda in the New Year.
Ms O’Loughlin will be assisted by Paul Shetler, the chief executive of the old Digital Transformation Office who becomes the Australian Government’s first Chief Digital Officer, operating from within the new DTA as its lead technical delivery operator.
Ms O’Loughlin has already hinted at the big shifts to come.
“The shape of the agency will continue to change over coming weeks as we finalise the scope of the DTA’s expanded functions,” she said in a press statement late last week.
Serious culture change is likely, especially for the former Finance people shifting into DTA.
The McKinsey trained Mr Taylor will expect a carrot and stick approach to driving government ICT with the stick being the procurement power lifted out of the Finance department and the DTA’s ability to scrutinise agency progress in rolling out their digitisation plans.
DTA will also have a hand in making sure there’s benefits from collaboration and sharing to get scale.
More stick comes in the form of a new advisory board with public and private sector expertise chaired by the nation’s most powerful public servant, the Secretary of the Department Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson.
The carrots get dangled in the form of a new version of the old Gershon Report-inspired scheme where agencies were able to keep 50 per cent of the savings wrangled from ICT efficiencies.
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