13 March 2009 | Martha McKenzie-Minifie
Central government has cut its spending on consultants over the past two years, but the total bill is still above £900 million.
Data from the Consultancy Value Programme (CVP), published on the OGC website this week, listed £909 million of spend on consultants for 2007-08 by the 16 biggest Whitehall departments. It was a 43 per cent drop from the last published figure of just over £1.5 billion for 2005-06, revealed by the National Audit Office.
The CVP was established by the OGC following the NAO's critical report. It aims to help buyers with a set of guidelines and tools for choosing and examining the cost of consultants. The OGC claims this provides a more structured and co-ordinated approach to consultant use.
The Department of Health, which had the biggest bill for the period at £132 million, recorded a rise in spend - up 5 per cent from 2005-06. But the Ministry of Defence, the second largest spender with £107 million, managed a 50 per cent drop compared with two years earlier.
An OGC spokesman said the drop in spending by central government departments on consultants demonstrated the CVP had delivered significant achievements. "We will continue to work with the NAO in ensuring value for money for the taxpayer."
In 2007, then head of the OGC, John Oughton, admitted to MPs nobody could assess with accuracy the value of consultants used by the public sector, despite the vast amount of money spent on them (News, 15 February 2007).