Management consultants have hit back at a damning government report that said departments were wasting millions of pounds buying their services.
The report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee said that if Whitehall had a tighter grip on the use of consultants, it could save more than £500m a year.
Many departments had no idea whether consultants provided value for money, and regularly turned to external help rather than assessing whether in-house staff had appropriate skills, the committee said.
But the Management Consultancies Association (MCA), which represents many large consultancies, said it required a huge leap of faith to conclude that the public sector was not getting full value from their work.
Peter Hill, MCA chief executive, said: “Lack of control procedures across government does not prove that consultants deliver poor value for money. There is not a single example in the report that provides evidence that lack of such procedures resulted in consultants delivering poor value for money.”
Hill pointed to many successful public sector projects that had been recognised at the MCA’s annual awards. And central government’s spending on consultants had been slowing significantly since 2003, he added.
Alan Warner, lead officer at the Public Sector People Managers’ Association, said sometimes inexperienced people in the sector hired consultants without being clear about what they wanted to achieve. “It’s not unusual for organisations to be unclear about what they want. There needs to be more control, with people knowing what a successful project looks like,” he said.
HR departments should strive to equip employees with more of the skills that would enable them to manage future projects in-house, Warner said. This could include work-shadowing or secondments to boost individuals’ experience.