Thursday, 21 June 2007

PCS and MPs attach consultant costs

THE HOUSE of Commons Public Accounts Committee and PCS last week attacked the “sheer profligacy” of the Government’s annual spending on consultants.
The government could save £500 million a year by improving control on the use of consultancies, the Commons Public Accounts Committee said.
Public sector spending on business consultants has risen by a third in three years to hit £2.8 billion in 2005-06, largely due to increases in their use by the National Health Service.
Central government accounts for £1.8 billion of that total with more than half spent on IT and project management skills.
But the committee said departments and the Government’s procurement agency, the Office of Government Commerce, did not know how much they were spending on consultancy and so were unable to tell if the benefits justified the cost.
“It is impossible to believe that the public are receiving anything like full value for money from this expenditure,” said the committee’s chair, Edward Leigh. “In fact, a good proportion of it looks like sheer profligacy.”
PCS also accused the Government of giving management consultants a licence to print money at the taxpayer’s expense, as it responded to the committee’s report.
The union branded the £1.8 billion spent last year by central government on consultants as obscenely wasteful and supported the report’s view that the public weren’t receiving full value for money.
As the government continue to cut over 100,000 civil and public service jobs, the union warned of a false economy where consultants were increasingly being employed to plug gaps in the workforce and doing the same work as civil servants, often at up to ten times the cost.
The union was also shocked to learn consultants are being paid simply on the basis of the amount of time worked and not on what work has been achieved.
Commenting, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “These are obscene sums of money being given to management consultants with little thought of value for money. Rather than investing in its own workforce, the Government have effectively given management consultants a licence to print money at the taxpayer’s expense.
“You have the ludicrous situation of departments such as Revenue and Customs seeking to save £105 million in the last year by cutting staff, but spending £106 million on management consultants who often do the same work as civil servants.
“The Government needs to recognise the skills and knowledge it has in house and start cutting management consultants, not hardworking experienced civil servants.”