The federal government's in-house consultancy is "close to completion" on its first two advisory projects even before the arrival of two newly-appointed senior executives.
Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher said Australian Government Consulting (AGC), set up as part of the government's crackdown on the use of external expertise, was just about to finish work advising the Net Zero Economy Agency and a separate project helping federal, state and territory governments deepen their economy engagement with India.
The near-completion of the pilot projects comes as the government announces the appointment of Victoria's chief data officer, Andrew Nipe, as the agency's chief consulting officer and former senior Department of Employment and Workplace Relations official Joanna Rossiter as his deputy.
The AGC was established with an initial budget of $10.9 million over two years to provide "a new source of high-quality management consulting services for the Australian Public Service", according to the government.
It was formed following government concerns about the extent the APS's reliance on external consultants, contractors and labour hire firms to provide advice and undertake key functions.
Earlier this year, an audit found almost $20.8 billion was spent on external expertise in 2021-22 alone filling the equivalent of 54,000 full-time positions. At the time the APS had 144,000 employees.
Senator Gallagher welcomed the appointments of Mr Nipe and Ms Rossiter and said the near-completion of the two pilot projects showed that the AGC has "hit the ground running".
The agency is expected deliver at least 15 projects over the next two years as well as advise the APS on how to make better use of its in-house expertise and extract greater value from external consultants.
Senator Gallagher has been a strong critic of the previous government's policies, particularly its cap on public servant numbers, that drove a big increase in the use of consultants, contractors and labour hire operators.
The risks inherent in such heavy reliance were highlighted earlier this year by revelations that a PwC partner advising Treasury on the design on new tax rules disclosed confidential information that was used to benefit the firm's clients.
The minister said AGC was part of a push by the government to build upon the APS's expertise.
"Australian Government Consulting will offer public servants the opportunity to work across departments on projects that have, in the past, been outsourced to external consultancies," Senator Gallagher said.
"Not only will this new function strengthen internal skills and capabilities by bringing important work back into the APS, but it will also save the taxpayer money."