The Digital Transformation Agency will gain almost 40 additional staff this financial year, contrary to its projected average staffing level (ASL) in the federal budget.

As reported by iTnews earlier this month, the budget had shown the peak IT agency’s workforce to fall from 217 in 2019-20 to 182 in 2020-21, or about 16 percent.

The drop would have seen the DTA’s staffing plunge to its lowest level since it was reborn as a full-fledged agency and took on the government’s II procurement and policy duties in 2016.

This was despite extra funding of $50.2 million in the government’s $800 million digital business plan to progress the Govpass digital identity program over the next two years.

A further $15.8 million was also handed to the agency to “support the continued delivery of government digital transformation priorities” for one year.

But DTA chief Randall Brugeaud told senate estimates on Thursday afternoon that ASL forecasting had not taken into account staff under either of the two funding allocations.

“We have a staffing cap in 2020-21 of 182,” he said in response to questions from Labor senator Helen Polley.

“In 2019-20, it was 217, so there’s 36 which were associated with terminating measures and, as a consequence, our ASL cap reduced to 182.

“But with the budget we received for digital identity our ASL cap was increased by another 14, and then [Department of Social Services] secretary [Kathryn] Campbell has within the portfolio reallocated resourcing to provide the DTA with 60 further ASL.”

“So netting that off, the current ASL cap that the DTA is working to is 256.”

The additional 74 staff – or a net increase of 39  – means the DTA’s workforce will climb to the highest since its predecessor, the Digital Transformation Agency, was created five years ago.

When iTnews put questions to the agency about its projected ASL decrease earlier this month, it did not mention the increase. The DTA also made no attempt to correct the record.

“The DTA manages its average staffing level cap and contingent workforce in alignment with our prescribed remit and priorities,” the spokesperson told iTnews at time.

“Our contingent workforce allows us to engage subject matter experts for defined periods of time and enhance the capability of our ongoing APS workforce, allowing us to demonstrate efficiencies.”

Brugeaud also said that the DTA’s current contract workforce consisted of  79 contractors, and that contractor spending was $26.8 million in 2019-20, around $4 million less than 2018-19 ($30.7 million).

“We have about 10 percent less contractors, or in fact 11 percent less contractorsthan we had at the start of this financial year, and we have 10 percent, or 9.7 percent, more permanent staff,” he added.

“So we are balancing our permanent and contract workforce in line with both budgets and skill needs because we tend to cycle contractors through on a very short term basis, where we bring them in to do a piece of work, which is highly specialised in demand, and when they’re done, they’re done.”

Digital identity laws near

Estimates also revealed that long-awaited legislation for the government’s Govpass digital identity scheme has been drafted and is awaiting the consultation process.

Chief digital officer Peter Alexander said the agency would open consultation on legislation, which the agency was funded in the budget to develop, as soon as the end of this month.

“We’re also working on legislation because what we have with digital identity … is the Trusted Digital Identity Framework that sets out the operating model for digital identity,” he said.

“It sets the rules of operation, how participants in the ecosystem, identity providers, consumers will operate.

“But what we have is a set of rules that the federal government can follow and agencies in the Australian Government can use, but they can’t be applied to states and territories, and to the private sector.

“We need legislation to do that, so we’re working on legislation, and we’re about to go out to consult on that legislation at the end of this month.”

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