"Sounds as if they weren't actually doing Agile at all but merely spouting the management bullshit that can surround it."
I've done formal Agile processes in government (usually some form of scrum) and it goes one of two ways.
1) You're working directly for a small, operational team who just want shit done and you're able to deliver on time every couple of weeks. Nothing is perfect but everyone is happy because real things are being delivered, until central IT take over and it all turns to shit as they graft your delivery process onto their corporate standard. From then on you spend more time exporting JIRA reports to their standard project reporting spreadsheet template than you do producing useful stuff.
2) You're working on a "strategic initiative" or "digital transformation" with dozens of consultants where no one has any fucking idea what is to be delivered or what the overall goal is and there are dozens of disparate projects organised into programmes competing for funds. Senior leadership spend their days being bamboozled by the supplier and firefighting one thing at a time. GDS swan into the project once a quarter to tell you you're all shit and should use Ruby for everything. Nothing serious gets delivered but everyone gets paid because it's all T&M because government has *no idea* how to structure a contract to support iterative delivery.
It's not fun, but neither is it unique to agile or unique to government.