Gershon: Contractor cull hits DFAT, Defence

The Departments of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and others this week revealed they had made early moves to reduce their dependence on ICT contractors in line with the Gershon Review.

The Departments of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and others this week revealed they had made early moves to reduce their dependence on ICT contractors in line with the Gershon Review.

Razor: Gershon and Tanner

Sir Peter Gershon and Lindsay Tanner (Credit: Brian Hartigan)

The news from several large agencies comes days after ZDNet.com.au last week revealed most large federal government agencies had no plans to follow the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's early lead in hiring a swathe of new permanent IT staff to replace contractors to meet Sir Peter Gershon's recommendations.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs told ZDNet.com.au that the department had commenced reducing IT contractor levels before the release of Gershon's review last October.

"Even before the Review was completed, the department had commenced the process of increasing the number of APS ICT staff and reducing its dependence on ICT contractors," they told ZDNet.com.au.

Gershon's arguments to cut contractor levels centred on the retention of IT skills within the public sector, security clearances, and the higher cost of contractors compared to public servants.

He recommended agencies with contractor levels higher than 23 per cent halve those levels over the next two years, which he estimated would result in savings of $100 million.

The DFAT spokesperson said the department would continue to recruit permanent IT staff over the course of 2009 "in line with the contractor reduction targets recommended in the Gershon Review".

Defence has also admitted it would trim its IT contractor workforce as part of the Gershon Review; although, exact numbers are not yet clear.

The department had in December last year commenced a "Bulk ICT recruitment" drive for permanent staff for a range of positions — however, this was in support of Defence's ICT reform agenda, which chief information officer Greg Farr said was expected to kick off in 2009.

The roles Defence is still hoping to fill range from APS-level application developers, project managers and enterprise architects to executive level support professionals, with salary offers of no more than $90,000 per annum — less than half what Gershon estimated the annual cost of an IT contractor to be.

Defence has posted 54 full-time ICT-related vacancies in the past two weeks, according to the government's recruitment website, almost matching the 60 full-time IT staff the Department of Immigration and Citizenships announced it was on the hunt for last week to "rebalance its workforce with a greater proportion of staff" said DIAC's CIO Bob Correll.

Also cutting contractor levels will be Australia's peak innovation body, the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

"The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research will reduce the number of ICT contractors by a small number in 2009, replacing some with permanent staff, in order to meet the government's requirements following the Gershon Review," a spokesperson told ZDNet.com.au.

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