Home Affairs culls IT contractors amid budget blowout

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Home Affairs culls IT contractors amid budget blowout

Hundreds walked after projects paused.

The Department of Home Affairs has cut loose hundreds of contractors working in its ICT Division due to budget pressures that threaten the closure of projects.

The measures were taken last week after the department made the decision to pause several major IT projects in a bid to claw back savings.

It comes after staff were made aware of wider budget pressures affecting the department earlier this month.

In an internal email outlining the changes, obtained by iTnews, the department said that a “forecast overspend” would see the “closure, pause or slow-down” of selected projects from its capital investment program.

“This will result in the cessation of certain consultancy and contractor arrangements,” the internal email said.

The department's $100 million visa risk assessment intelligence capability, health systems project and API gateway capability project were identified as having already been paused in the Visa, Citizenship and Digital Systems Branch.

“The reduction of work in our branch has an immediate impact on our contractor workforce and today directors and I have spoken with contractors identified as affected,” the email said.

“Ongoing assessment and review of branch deliverables will continue to ensure projects and business operations remain within budgetary allocations.”

The “budget issues” have also seen a hiring freeze on the “engagement of new non-project contractors and consultants”.

iTnews understands the reduction in work has affected up to 300 contractors, with around 130 working on the department’s facial recognition SmartGate program.

However, whether this figure is limited to the Visa, Citizenship and Digital Systems Branch, remains unknown.

When approached for comment, the Department of Home Affairs declined to confirm just how many contractors had been let go, saying only that it regularly reviewed work to prioritise resources.

“The Department of Home Affairs regularly reviews operations across the department and the Australian Border Force (ABF), to ensure that resources are applied to priority projects and activities aimed at prioritising the delivery of our key objective, to keep Australia prosperous, safe and united,” the spokesperson said.

“Measures to ensure budget resources are applied to priority outcomes include ensuring that travel and recruitment are within budget parameters as well as reducing duplication and reassessing project effort.

“Some projects have been assessed as lower priority and this will see some projects pause, slow-down or cease.”

The spokesperson said the review measures did not include cuts to permanent departmental staff.

Home Affairs' IT contractor cost are some of the highest across the federal government, with in excess of $120 million spent in each of the last five years.

Know more? Contact jhendry@nextmedia.com.au

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