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25 February 2013 | Adam Leach
The Welsh public sector has cut combined spending on consultancy by £40 million in three years, but is unable to prove it got value for money.
A report published last week by the Wales Audit Office found the total amount spent over 2010-11 by all public sector bodies in the country - including local government and public health bodies - was £133 million, down from £173 million in 2007-08. Despite the reduction, the auditor general – who carried out the report into consultancy spending – said there were doubts over value for money as the data covering what was spent and how is not strong enough.
The study said poor data, insufficient collaboration and a failure to adopt good practice had resulted in further savings being missed. If the public sector adopted a more joined-up and robust approach to buying consultancy services, it suggested a further £23 million could be saved.
Huw Vaughan Thomas, auditor general for Wales, said in a statement: “Consultants can be a great help to public bodies in offering specialist advice to help deliver new services and initiatives quickly, but there are risks if they are not managed effectively. Although expenditure on consultants has reduced since 2007-08, public bodies need to adopt the good practice identified in this report to improve value for money and deliver efficiency savings.”
In particular, Thomas called for comprehensive business cases to be used more when proposing to buy consultancy services, for the quality of data to be improved, and for the use of consultancy to be analysed to aid workforce planning. He also called for completed consulting projects to be analysed to demonstrate value for money and identify areas for improvement.