The Digital Transformation Agency attempted to call and email the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to ascertain the status of the biometric identification system project, but had no oversight because the calls went un-returned.
The biometric project was dramatically dumped in June last year a week after contractors had been walked off the premises, and an audit report released last month showed $34 million of taxpayer dollars was wasted on the project.
On Monday night at Senate estimates Labor senator Jenny McAllister questioned whether the Digital Transformation Agency was aware of problems with the program and what steps had been taken to get the project back on track.
Chief portfolio officer at the agency Joanne Hutchinson said the government's central digital agency had "reached out" to the commission "to understand changes in their reporting" after it appeared confidence in the project had improved in May 2018.
Despite having met with the commission to talk about the project early in 2018, later attempts were ignored, meaning the agency had no way to help get the project back on track.
Senator McAllister called into question whether the Digital Transformation Agency had a "structural problem" because it was limited by the lack of response.
"This is reasonably troubling. Your role is to have portfolio oversight. How can we have a circumstance where the agency with portfolio oversight is unable to speak to the agencies in charge of the projects that DTA is supposed to be over-sighting?"
Digital Transformation Agency boss Randall Brugeaud said checking on such projects was only a small part of what the agency does, and that they worked within the parameters directed by government.
“It is the responsibility of the agencies who are funded to deliver their programs. We provide advice to the senior responsible officers ... if they return our phone calls,” he said.
"The DTA has limited capacity and jurisdiction over individual projects. There are many large projects being run across government. For us to have a forensic view of every project that's reporting amber at any reporting point is just impractical, even with a broader mandate."