Government procurement could spark consultancy revolution

THE BIG FOUR audit firms have been joined by a wide variety of other consultancies on the new ConsultancyONE buying framework that is being launched by the GPS (Government Procurement Service). The government believes that this initiative can create a ‘single route to market’ for consulting services in the public sector.

The announcement has come at an important moment. Nearly three years into the life of the Coalition, a great deal of work remains to be done to implement the ambitious programme that ministers have set out. An administration that aims to be transformative will need access to the top quality skills and knowledge that the UK’s consulting firms can provide.

In our discussions with government about the framework, we have stressed three points.

First, it is important for government to draw a clearer line between genuine consulting and the interim staffing options with which it is often confused.

Second, we wanted to open up this framework to many of the smaller specialist consulting firms which are such a key part of the UK industry. Buyers in the public sector should be able to choose the best consulting firm to meet their particular needs.

And, third, we want consultancies who work in the public sector to deliver maximum value for taxpayers. This shouldn’t be about driving down prices, which can squeeze out innovative approaches and the best value firms. Equally, consulting firms must understand that their performance will be evaluated effectively and rigorously and that they will be held to account for their results.

The launch of ConsultancyONE gives the government the opportunity to deliver on all three points. Many of the early signs are encouraging.

But reform could be taken further. Instead of focusing on consulting day rates, the public sector could be leading the way in new thinking about payment for results, sharing risk and rewarding performance. Through improved evaluation, the government would become proud clients of consulting.

ConsultancyONE is a positive start. There’s still more to do.

Alan Leaman is CEO of the Management Consultancies Association

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