18 December 2006 | Antony Barton
Spending on consultants across the public sector has risen by 33 per cent in two years, according to the National Audit Office.
The public spending watchdog revealed that central government spent around £1.8 billion on consultants in 2005-6, with total public sector spend estimated at around £2.8 billion, up from £2.1 billion in 2003-04.
A detailed review of five departments revealed a series of failings in the commissioning of consultants including departments not collecting adequate information on their use and the benefits they presented. They also failed to properly assess whether internal resources could be used instead and lacked control of awarding contracts by single tender.
The report, however, also found that many departments have made progress with the involvement of procurement staff in the buying process. Buyers at the Department for Communities and Local Government review the business case for all consulting projects, for example.
The report made seven recommendations including identifying where it would be better to train internal personnel rather than recruiting consultants and ensuring skills are transferred from consultants to permanent staff.