One third of DTA workforce are labour hire staff

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

Nearly a third of the Digital Transformation Agency’s total workforce are temporary labour hire staff, as concerns continue to grow over a lack of in-house tech expertise in the public sector.

As revealed in answers to Senate Estimates questions on notice this week, the Digital Transformation Agency’s (DTA) total headcount of 277 people as of the end of March includes 112 labour hire and contractor staff.

As of the end of March, 28.3 per cent of the agency’s total workforce were labour hire staff, with the total value of labour hire contracts the DTA entered into between 1 July and 31 December last year hitting $14.7 million.

DTA chief Randall Brugeaud
DTA chief Randall Brugeaud

The DTA was originally launched by then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in part to bring tech expertise back inside the public sector, but the agency has become increasingly reliant on short-term contractors, labour hire staff and consultancy firms.

The agency is involved with a number of key government projects, including the redevelopment of myGov, the digital identity scheme, the new visa processing platform and the COVIDSafe app. It is also in the processing of refreshing the government’s digital transformation paper.

But the DTA is facing a significant funding and staff cut in the coming years, as revealed in the recent federal budget. The DTA’s funding is set to drop from $425.5 million in 2020-21 to $336 million the following year.

The DTA’s average staffing level will also fall from 255 to 227.

The reduction in resources coincides with the DTA being returned to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet after being housed in Services Australia for several years. Despite the move, the DTA will remain under the control of Stuart Robert, who is now the employment minister.

The DTA has continually combatted high rates of staff turnover, due mostly to its reliance on short-term contractors and secondments from other departments.

In July last year it was revealed that the DTA had experienced near-100 per cent staff turnover in the 18 months prior, with 251 people ceasing employment at the agency from July 2018 to February 2020, out of a total workforce at the time of 256 staff.

Out of those who ceased employment in this time, 242 were contractors.

Earlier this year InnovationAus revealed the DTA had entered into contracts worth more than $20 million in this financial year alone for “temporary personnel services”, worth a combined $20.23 million.

The DTA has also increased its reliance on private contractors and consultants, with its contracts with tier one management consultants increasing by nearly five times in the 2019-20 financial year compared to the previous 12 months.

A number of other key tech and government services agencies and departments are also heavily reliant on labour hire staff.

The Department of Social Services’ total workforce has 14.6 per cent labour hire staff, with 410 staff out of 2340 in total

Services Australia, responsible for a wide range of government digital services, has a total headcount of 26,608, with 1427 of these being labour hire staff, equating to just over 4 per cent.

More than a quarter of the National Disability Insurance Agency’s total workforce are labour hire staff, with 1427 temporary staff out of a total workforce of 3169.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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