The government must eliminate unnecessary spending on contractors and prioritise user experience in digital transformation, a Senate committee report has found.
The report into the digital delivery of government services, with majority Labor and Greens membership and led by Labor's Jenny McAllister, found that digital transformation was "a policy area beset by soaring rhetoric and vague aspirations by government, largely unconnected to the actual policy activities actually undertaken".
"The government has not demonstrated that it has the political will to drive digital transformation," the report said.
The report also took aim at the role of the Digital Transformation Agency, which has had a "muted" contribution to technological advances in government services.
Among the eight recommendations, the committee recommended the government establish a timetable for independent audits of IT contracts "to identify whether government is taking on a level of risk that is consistent with the contract price and community expectations".
The report was scathing about the level of IT expertise in the public service, recommending that the government develop a long term strategy to increase capabality within the APS to perform work that is regularly contracted out. It also recommended that Digital Transformation Agency develop education and training programs for all public servants, including SES officers.
"On its current trajectory, the APS risks becoming exclusively a cadre of generalist managers who no longer have the requisite policy and technical skills to conduct the business of government," the report said.
Contracting of IT work was a focus of the report, which said there were "serious deficiencies in the way departments contract with the private sector".
A dissenting report from the government members of the commitee said that they support the government approach to transforming digital service delivery, and that managing digital government services was complex.
"The evidence has shown that there is not a simple one size fits all solution," the government senators said.
Government senators on the committee James Paterson and Amanda Stoker said the majority report's criticism that ministers and the senior levels of the public service lacked strategic focus reflected "a callous disregard for the hard work and dedication of senior public officials, but also a disregard for the facts".
They also defended the use of contractors on IT projects, and skill shortages within the public service, pointing to wider skill shortages across the sector.