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Union Warns Govt IT Services To Fail On Skills Shortage

An organisation covering science, IT and engineering professionals has warned high-profile federal government service failures will continue unless the skills shortage in the Australian public service is addressed.

Professionals Australia (PA) cited the much-maligned COVIDsafe app, robodebt, CensusFail and 2.5 million Australians opting out of the My Health Record following 42 separate data breaches, among the failures.

The union, which refers to its structure as a network covering 25,000 members, is calling for a separate classification structure for technical and specialist skills to be formalised across the public service.

PA urged the changes in a submission to the current Australian Public Service hierarchy and classification review which stems from the David Thodey capability review in 2019.

The submission says poor pay and opportunities for public servants with sought-after technical skills were the result of public service hierarchy structures and were costing taxpayers and risking more government failures.

The union’s Dale Beasley says too often APS leadership see technical skills and workforce as something that can be bought off the shelf because the structures do not allow them to think otherwise.

The union has also criticised government outsourcing of projects saying experience from undertaking the work is lost to the tenderer rather than retained within the public service which only ensures that future outsourcing is more likely.

Around 75 percent of public service agencies have reported critical skill shortages, particularly technical skills in digital, data and ICT.

Some departments now have more outsourced staff than public servants, such as the Department of Defence.

A recent review of DoD employee levels found it has two outsourced staff for every public servant, an external worker profile bigger than the entire Australian Army.

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