The Digital Transformation Agency said a planned $90 million cut to its budget next financial year is accompanied by a “large reduction” in what it is “being asked to do”.
In the federal budget a fortnight ago, it was revealed that the DTA's overall funding would fall from $425.5 million this financial year to $336 million in 2021-22, and its averaging staff level (ASL) will also drop from 255 to 227.
The cuts were attributed at the time to the transfer of the DTA from Services Australia to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet under a machinery of government change reported by iTnews last month.
DTA boss Randall Brugeaud told senate estimates on Monday evening that the actual reduction impacting the DTA was closer to $39 million, with the other reduction “related to lapsing measures”, such as a whole-of-government software agreement that was not signed by budget time.
While the cut was “large”, it came with a hand-off of a number of oversight responsibilities.
“It is a large reduction in overall budget, but it's also a large reduction in what we're being asked to do,” Brugeaud said.
“As part of our transition into the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio, there are a number of delivery functions - particularly myGov and digital identity - that will transfer out into delivery agencies.
“Of that total quantum of $39 million reduction, net, we have $32.5 million being reallocated to Services Australia to allow them to continue to work on myGov and digital identity.”
Brugeaud indicated there had been discussions for some months on where DTA was best housed.
“There have been discussions about the DTA role and mandate for a number of months,” he said.
“As a consequence of reviews that have been conducted, the appropriate placement for the DTA has been considered and discussed.”
He declined to reveal the nature of the conversations, but said the agency was in no “way, shape or form blindsided by” the transfer decision.
“The DTA was originally situated in the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio,” hee said.
“This is a return into the portfolio, which reinforces our role at the whole-of-government strategy and policy table.”
Brugeaud said DTA would still have input into the strategy around myGov but execution and delivery would be handled by Services Australia.
“If we look at myGov specifically, it is a service that provides access to more than a dozen linked services,” he said.
“The government's vision is to expand that to become a single front door for government.
“As a consequence, the DTA has a role where it can look across all of government and determine what services might be provided next, what additional features might be prioritised, based on what we know people need to do, so our role in relation to strategy and policy is looking at the whole-of-government level to support that transition from myGov being more focused on the social services portfolio and tax to a much broader set of services.
“We provide that advice to the government, and Services Australia then becomes what you might call a big systems integrator that brings all of these services together.
“They are a delivery powerhouse.”