The Digital Transformation Agency’s transition into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio has meant that some of its key projects will be taken over by Services Australia, according to DTA boss Randall Brugeaud.
Responsibility for the DTA transferred from the Department of Social Services to PM&C under machinery of government changes last month, outlined in an Administrative Arrangements Order.
During Senate Estimates on Monday, Labor senator Tim Ayres asked why the DTA’s funding was cut by $90 million in the recent federal budget. Brugeaud said this was an ‘overstatement’, as some of the cuts related to lapsed and proposed measures.
“The $90 million that was reported as a reduction in our budget in our portfolio budget statements mixes our special account with our departmental appropriation,” he explained.
“The overall reduction of $89.409 million is made up of $39.388 million in departmental appropriation reduction. But, of that, $62.2 million relates to lapsing measures and $300,000 relates to reductions through indexation and efficiency dividends.
“There’s also an addition of $23.1 million in new measures. So the overall reduction is $39.388 for departmental appropriation, and then we have a reduction of $55.619 million in the special account, related to two key drivers.”
One ‘key driver’ was a direct pass-through of costs to agencies for telecommunications panels. The other was the cessation of a whole-of-government agreement with SAP, he said.
Brugeaud noted that the funding cut also reflected the DTA’s condensed role.
“It is a large reduction in overall budget, but it’s also a large reduction in what we’re being asked to do,” he 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.”
He said that of the $39.388 million reduction, $32.5 million is being reallocated to Services Australia ‘to allow them to continue to work on myGov and digital identity’.
Brugeaud revealed that he first learned of the DTA’s transition to PM&C when he saw the order, but was not ‘blindsided’ by it.
The DTA chief also told estimates the overall cost of build and operation for the government’s COVIDSafe app was $7,753,863.38 at April 30. The app is costing $75,094.98 per month.
“We’ve made a number of performance improvements to the app over the last couple of months which should see that sitting at about $60,000 per month from 1 July,” Brugeaud said.
Between the launch of the app in April 2020 and May 19 2021, it has been used to identify 567 close contacts of COVID-19 cases, Brugeaud said.