04 January 2007 | 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 reveals that central government spent around £1.8 billion on consultants in 2005-06, with total public sector spending on consultants 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. For the most part, departments did not collect adequate information on their use or the benefits they presented.
They also failed to make proper assessments of whether internal resources could be used instead and lacked controls on awarding contracts by single tender.
The report does, however, say many departments have made progress with the involvement of procurement staff in the buying process. For instance, procurers at the Department for Communities and Local Government review the business cases for all consulting projects.
Seven recommendations set out by the report include identifying where it would be better to train internal personnel rather than recruiting consultants and ensuring skills are transferred from consultants to permanent staff.