Private contractors have received nearly half-a-million dollars for their work building the government's newly-announced APS Academy in a move the opposition is calling an "embarrassing" erosion of the public sector's capability.
The Australian Public Service Commission's APS Academy was first announced in February by assistant minister for the public service Ben Morton as a training facility for federal public servants to receive leadership training and other skills promoting integrity in the workplace.
It's expected to offer courses from July 1 this year.
But the building of the academy, including work to establish its program design and operating and funding models, has been given to the private sector, costing nearly $500,000 in just two months.
Three contracts issued in March to three private companies to provide specialist services to help build the new public service school totalled $447,000.
The largest contract, at $215,600, was given to Meld Studios for its support in designing the academy's learning program.
Labor's public service spokesperson Senator Katy Gallagher said the public service commission had been left with no choice but to outsource due to the government's staffing cap policy.
"Scott Morrison's arbitrary and damaging staffing cap policy and obsession with privatisation by stealth, have led to this embarrassing situation," Senator Gallagher said.
"How can the minister responsible for the public service claim just two months ago that the APS Academy was key to 'elevating the professionalisation of the APS', only to immediately spend half a million dollars and outsource every aspect of the Academy's design and implementation to external consultants and private firms.
"This is another lost opportunity by the Morrison government to harness and invest directly in the skills and capability of our dedicated public servants."
Mr Morton's office declined to comment but directed questions to the APSC.
The public service commission said it needed the additional resources to cope with the workload and had looked to the private sector as well as receiving secondments from other agencies.
"In order to both design and build the Academy, whilst continuing the business as usual operations of the APSC Centre for Leadership and Learning, additional resources were required," a spokesperson said.
"Resources have been provided from within the APS, with numerous agencies providing staff on secondment to the APSC to assist with the design and build of the Academy.
"The Academy implementation is being administered within available resources. The Academy will receive funding in the future through 'fee for service' arrangements and through funding provided by the APSC."
The average staffing level cap policy was introduced in 2015 under the Abbott government to maintain the public service's size at or below 2006 levels.
It has been widely criticised for resulting in a drop in specialised skills and capability within the public service and sharp rise in government spending on private contractors and consultants.
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