Public sector stalwart David Hazlehurst, who set up the Digital Transformation Office as interim CEO in 2015 and steered the team of bureaucrats that reviewed the myGov platform plast year, has been appointed to lead Services Australia.
Mr Hazlehurst will join the government’s largest service delivery agency in early January, having spent the last 10 months as Head of Secretariate for the review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
He replaces former chief executive Rebecca Skinner, who retired at the end of September. Ms Skinner spent three and a half years at the helm of the agency, steering it through the pandemic, the Robodebt recovery and a large-scale upgrade to Centrelink systems.
Government Services minister Bill Shorten announced Mr Hazlehurst’s appointment on Tuesday, describing him as a reliable senior public sector leader with 30 years’ experience across multiple agencies.
“Services Australia has responded to significant challenges and undergone a raft of changes since Labor came to government, including the conclusion of the Robodebt era of administration,” Mr Shorten said.
“Mr Hazlehurst will be a steady hand to lead the agency through the next phase and I have full trust in his professionalism and ability to put our most vulnerable Australians first.”
Mr Hazlehurst comes to Services Australia without a way forward on myGov, with the government yet to respond to the audit almost a year after it was released, resulting in criticism from the Opposition.
The myGov audit, which was led by former CSIRO chair David Thodey, found the platform still fell “well short” of the vision of a digital front door and called on the government to commit long-term ongoing funding of more than $100 million a year for myGov to “fulfil its potential”.
In this year’s Budget, the government set aside $134.5 million to give myGov “certainly and stability” for another 12 months, but it has only provisioned ongoing funding for the platform in the Contingency Reserve.
As the head of the secretariate for the audit, Mr Hazlehurst has an intimate understanding of the residual problems facing myGov, which was overhauled from 2020 to deliver a more scalable, user-friendly platform.
myGov’s underpinning government digital experience platform (GovDXP) is built on Adobe software and hosted on Amazon Web Services. Deloitte led the work over the pandemic years at a cost of more than $80 million.
Since delivering the findings of the myGov audit in January, Mr Hazlehurst spent nine month as the head of the secretariate for the landmark NDIS Review, which handed down its list of 26 recommendations last week.
Prior to that, Mr Hazlehurst worked stints as deputy secretary at what is now the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and the Department Industry, Science and Resources, and was deputy CEO at Austrade.
He was also tasked with setting up the Digital Transformation Agency’s predecessor, the DTO, in early 2015, spending five months in the role before the late Paul Shetler arrived from the UK to take over.
Services Australia, which is responsible for Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support payments, employs more than 30,000 public servants, making it the federal government’s largest public service agency.
Mr Shorten also said that Mr Hazlehurst was appointed by a selection panel that include a welfare advocate in former CEO of Economic Justice Australia Leanne Ho, a first for the Social Services portfolio.
“Services Australia touches the lives of many Australians, particularly those who are facing difficult circumstances. I am extremely proud that a welfare advocate… was include on the selection panel to ensure we got this appointment right,” he said.
Mr Shorten also thanked acting Services Australia CEO Chris Birrer, who is ordinarily the deputy CEO of the Payments and Integrity Group, for his “steadfast and passionate leadership in this important transitionary period”.
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