New DTA CEO Chris Fechner fronts Senate Estimates

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

New Digital Transformation Agency CEO Chris Fechner has fronted Senate Estimates for the first time, confirming the agency’s move away from service delivery during a late night appearance plagued by technical difficulties.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) was finally called before the Finance and Public Administration committee at 10:50pm on Monday night, just 10 minutes before the cut-off time for Senate Estimates.

In the brief appearance, the DTA representatives batted away questions relating to the COVIDSafe app after it was transferred to the Department of Health earlier this month and confirmed the agency will no longer conduct any service delivery.

DTA chief executive Chris Fechner appears before a Senate Estimates hearing

Mr Fechner, who was appointed as the DTA’s new chief executive officer last month and took the reins earlier this month, missed the start of the appearance due to video link technical difficulties which DTA staff blamed on Parliament’s network.

When he did appear, Labor Senators quickly questioned why he was not yet listed on the DTA’s website as its boss.

Mr Fechner said the agency is currently redesigning its branding in light of its new mandate, revealed earlier this year.

“We’re going through a revamp of the website and branding. There have been some limited changes we’ve put through but unfortunately that change has not been made yet but it will be happening very soon along with many of the changes associated with our new mandate,” Mr Fechner told the Estimates hearing.

The DTA was moved from Services Australia to Prime Minister & Cabinet earlier this year, with its mandate shifting away from service delivery and project management and towards delivering whole-of-government advice and strategy.

Mr Fechner confirmed that this new mandate is now in force.

“Our new mandate is to not do digital service delivery. Our new mandate looks at strategy, policy, procurement, contestability and supporting those new delivery agencies in the delivery of new government services,” he said.

“The DTA has moved into PM&C to better reflect its position around providing strategy, policy advice and procurement advice. In previous incarnations it was more of a digital delivery agency, and this is not our purpose now. It’s more effective for us to be aligned with central agencies than it is with delivery agencies.”

As part of this restructure, the DTA handed over responsibility for the controversial COVIDSafe contact tracing app to the Department of Health earlier this month.

DTA representatives declined to answer a number of questions from Labor Senators on the app due to this shift, but did confirm that it has cost $9.1 million as of 4 October, including AWS hosting costs of $2.7 million.

The question of how much the app cost in-house to design and develop was taken on notice by the DTA.

The DTA staff did confirm that as of the start of October there were no plans to change the way COVIDSafe works.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

1 Comment
  1. Rowan Blizzard 2 years ago

    Given the DTA startling “success” at service delivery, thinking Robo Debt and abject failure of many of the current digital service delivery platforms (centrelink etc) what gives anyone the confidence that this strategic advice is a good move?

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