Former Digital Transformation Office chief Paul Shetler’s decision to leave government was down to a philosophical clash with minister Angus Taylor, he revealed this morning.
The “fundamental disagreement” with the Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation resulted in Shetler quitting the government in November last year, he told RN Breakfast.
“I came in to do a thing and the thing I came in to do was to transform the Australian government and to do so through delivery,” Shetler said. “And when you have somebody saying well we don’t want to do that let’s take a different approach, let’s take the same approach we tried several times before which didn’t work – I don’t want to take the same approach that didn’t work several times before.”
“The idea that the Digital Transformation Agency should just become a policy agency and essentially stop doing its delivery was not something which I agreed with. It’s not the way that I want to work and it’s not the way that I do work. And it’s not the way that I will work.”
Shelter was hand-picked by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to lead the government’s Digital Transformation Office in July 2015.
Following a restructure and rebrand (to Digital Transformation Agency) led by Taylor in October last year, Shetler was effectively demoted from chief executive officer to chief digital officer.
Shetler resigned less than six weeks later.
Lack of political will
The former CDO of the UK’s Ministry of Justice, also blamed lack of political will to digitally transform government for his swift departure.
“It’s extremely difficult to get an incredibly bureaucratised, incredibly balkanised bureaucracy to decide it wants to transform itself. That’s an awful lot of inertia in the systems built in,” he said. “It’s obviously possible to do that but you need to have strong support along the way from the ministers and the top.”
“I think that there has to be the ambition to [digitally transform government] and extremely importantly I think there has to be the political will to do so. And I question that. I think it’s absent.”
During the interview, Shetler also criticised the government for the Centrelink fiasco which he called "appalling" and "entirely preventable".
Angus Taylor’s office had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
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