MPs seek clarity on OGC spend on consultancy

MPs are again scrutinising the government’s use of consultants. NAO figures
show that public sector spending on consultants increased by one-third ­from
£2.1bn to £2.8bn ­over the past three years.

John Oughton, chief executive of the Office of Government Commerce, faced a
grilling from the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Edward Leigh MP. Leigh
highlighted a number of instances which he believes provide clear evidence of
the department paying ‘no heed whatsoever to the rules set to protect taxpayer
money and demonstrate value for money,’ identifying the Department of Health’s
dealings with Dr Foster LLP as a particular lowlight.

Referring to the deal, he said: ‘There was an unseemly urgency to complete
the deal. The department is blurring the lines between adviser and joint venture
partner by paying Dr Foster itself for advice on a joint venture with the
private sector.’

The PAC also demanded that OGC justify the £1.5bn of work shared among ten
consultancy firms last year. Oughton said: ‘We would ensure that all spend on
consultancy is booked against admin budgets instead of being attributed to
programme spend. That would expose it and make it more visible.’

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