19 June 2008 | Paul Snell
The Home Office spent nearly half a million pounds on temporary procurement staff for a project that was eventually cancelled.
The department spent just over £29 million in total on planning and designing a new accommodation centre for asylum seekers in Bicester, Oxfordshire. But the project was cancelled in June 2005, following a fall in the number of asylum applicants, a rise in the cost of the project and improvement in asylum processing.
A report by the Public Accounts Committee revealed the department spent £497,900 on temporary procurement advisors to work on the project. This compares to £173,000 it spent on permanent staff working on the plan.
"While the use of agency staff met the department's short-term needs, recruitment of staff with appropriate skills would have been a better investment," the report said.
The committee of MPs was also unconvinced by the department's use of consultants. More than £6 million was spent on consultancy during the project, but it could not be determined if they had added any value to reduce risk in the project.
A spokesman for the Home Office said in a statement: "Our experience with this project has taught us some important lessons, and this, along with the other improvements put in place, has led to an overall positive impact for the public."