The true value spent by the
government on consultants is likely to be even higher, because not
all contracts have yet been published. In fact, some of the deals
awarded in 2020 were made public only in recent months.
“Any government worth its salt
should be a true guardian of the public coffers that spends
carefully and delivers effectively,” said Labour’s Margaret Hodge,
the former chair of the public accounts committee.
“This important investigation by
openDemocracy demonstrates once again that this Tory government is
not up to the task.
“They have splashed our cash on a
roll call of expensive consultants without a care for how
taxpayer’s money is spent or a consideration for transparency. If
you look up profligacy in the dictionary, you might just see a
picture of Boris Johnson.”
openDemocracy’s analysis looked
at consultancy work awarded to 14 of the sector’s biggest companies
– including Deloitte, KPMG, EY and PricewaterhouseCoopers – and
made public in the past ten months.
It reveals how consultants have
continued to win eye-watering sums from Boris Johnson’s government.
Last year, analysis
found that Deloitte alone had been handed 26 contracts worth up to
£278.7m. But details of several more contracts with the firm have
now been published, totalling more than £10m, including work on the
government’s COVID pass programme.
KPMG was awarded a £4m contract
by the Department for Transport to research the pandemic’s impact
on Transport for London.
Another firm, PA Consulting, has
been awarded a string of COVID-related contracts by Whitehall,
including work on ventilators and testing.
The government also paid
consultancy firm McKinsey the equivalent of £14,000 a day to create a
replacement for Public Health England, in May 2020.
Many consulting companies have enjoyed
healthy profits through the pandemic, with top bosses receiving
Partners at Deloitte were set to
take home a £1m payout
last year according to reports, while partners at the American firm
Boston Consultancy also received
£943,687 each – after it won a string of UK government
And PWC’s chair Kevin Ellis saw
his profit share
rise to £4.4m in 2021 after it won millions of pounds worth of
deals from Whitehall. In its annual report
last year, PWC said it had helped the UK government “to enable
“Work that could and should have
been done within government has instead been done at jaw-dropping
day rates by private consultants,” said Jolyon Maugham, the
director of the Good Law Project, which has taken the government to
court over different COVID contracts.
He added: “This – the inevitable
consequence of years of austerity – is expensive for taxpayers and
suboptimal for outcomes. We need to stop sacrificing efficiency at
the altar of small-state ideology.”
Some consultancy deals have also
been criticised because the government suspended its normal
procurement procedures at the start of the pandemic. Rules were
lifted in March 2020 to allow officials to skip the often lengthy
competitive tendering process – and instead hand contracts directly
to their chosen companies.
However, months later,
that departments were still giving contracts to consultancy firms
without competition – leading to accusations of sloppiness by the
Many consultancy contracts have
also been kept secret for months after being signed, before
eventually being published online.
The Labour Party has previously
urged the government not to rely so heavily on a small handful of
multinational consultancy firms, saying
there is a “worrying lack of transparency” around COVID contracts.
Clyne, a senior researcher at the Institute of Government, told
openDemocracy: “There will always be a need to bring outside
expertise and resource into government, but the government’s
extensive use of, and spending on, consultants demonstrates the
problem of allowing a reliance on contractors rather than
maintaining and improving the capabilities of the civil service.”
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