The Finance Department is preparing to cut jobs after failing to make the savings imposed by the federal government.
A confidential memo sent to staff by the secretary, David Tune, calls for volunteers to take redundancy before the new financial year.
The irony of the tougher demands for across-the-board savings originally being made by the department's minister will not be lost on staff.
The revelation follows CSIRO's shock announcement this week that it is preparing to cut up to 100 jobs. The research agency had to cut its labor costs by 2.5 per cent, chief executive Megan Clark told staff on Tuesday.
The increased demand for government departments and agencies to make savings was announced by Finance Minister Penny Wong in November 2011.
She said then the government would introduce a one-off increase to the ''efficiency dividend'' to ensure government delivers better value for taxpayers.
''For the next financial year [2012-13], an additional 2.5 per cent efficiency dividend will apply. This will be on top of the existing efficiency dividend of 1.5 per cent. This measure will result in savings of $1.5 billion over the forward estimates,'' she said.
Mr Tune told his staff in a email that the department's executive board had been looking at spending ''in the context of the continuing constrained financial environment''.
''I would like to acknowledge everyone's efforts to date in achieving a range of savings, including through savings in non-staff costs, our recruitment pause and the recent organisation restructure, all of which have substantially improved our financial position,'' he says.
''However, even with these efforts, it has become clear that we need to take further action ahead of the 2013-14 financial year.
''For this reason the board and I have decided that a small number of voluntary redundancies will be offered to ongoing staff to help us achieve a more sustainable budget position. As a first step, we are seeking expressions of interest from ongoing staff who may be interested in exploring this option.
''This will give us an indication of the level of interest and will assist us in assessing any financial and organisational implications.
''While it is disappointing that, despite our efforts, we have been unable to achieve the savings targets we set for ourselves without offering a small number of VRs, I am confident that we will maintain the expertise and capability to continue providing advice, service and support to our usual high standard.''
A department spokeswoman said the number of voluntary redundancies on offer was small and would be clarified after expressions of interest closed next Wednesday.
ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries said it must come as a huge shock to Finance Department staff that, despite the department's best efforts, savings targets could not be reached without job losses.
''It comes on top of a restructure, an increased efficiency dividend, a cut to non-staff costs and a freeze on recruitment that the department has already had to implement due to Labor's haphazard budget management,'' Senator Humphries said.
''If the department in charge of the government's bank account can't balance their own books, it doesn't augur well for the nation's finances or for public servants' job security.
''It appears as though each week another government department comes forward asking its people to start looking for another job.
''My concern is that Labor's budgeting will continue to have the same impact in the lead up to the May budget as Labor struggle to pay for what they have promised.''