The Prime Minister's Digital Transformation Office was "locked out" of helping with Centrelink's robo-debt, the former head of the agency says.
Paul Shetler, who was handpicked by Mr Turnbull to lead the government's technological revolution, says he and his colleagues first heard about the automatically generated debt program in the media.
Mr Shetler has been an outspoken critic of the federal government's tech efforts since he resigned in November, just weeks after his agency was restructured and his job downsized.
The renamed Digital Transformation Agency has since been called in to try to get the robo-debt program back on track.
Mr Shetler said the approach was typical of the giant Department of Human Services.
"Generally speaking they were difficult to work with and very, very defensive...'nothing is wrong, everything is good, the house is burning down but everything is fine,'" he said.