Use of Consultants by NICS

It’s beginning to look like all I’m interested in is parking! So time for a whole different type of request. One of the other fascinating documents I found on the NIAO site was their June 2004 report into the Use of Consultants by Northern Ireland Civil Service. This is a horrifying document reporting on a survey of 85 consultancy contracts and discovered that 74% of them had no formal business case, that over 8 million pounds was being spent annually on reports without even clearly identifying the business need, that a third of these weren’t tendered competitively, that even when the initial contract was on a fixed or capped fee basis, almost half of these were extended, and that the costs tended to rise by 65%, and that 93% were paid for without being subjected to any documented assessment procedure.

Some of the case studies are fascinating:

Case Study D:

The department’s original contract for this assignment was for a fixed fee of just under 20,000. The department subsequently agreed to three extensions to the contract. These increased the consultancy assignment by 115 days and the daily rate by 20%. As a result, the overall cost to the department was 140,000 – seven times greater than the original contract.

Case Study G:

The department commissioned an external IT consultant to produce a departmental e-business strategy. Although all departments had been requested to undertake similar studies, no arrangements were made to commission an NICS-wide collaborative study. In the absence of central arrangements, the department commissioned its own study. Originally awarded for a sum of 30,000, as the project progressed, the department agreed substantial changes to the original specification and a number of extensions. Total payments to the contractor amounted to 183,000.

None of the consultants are named in the report. FOI has an exemption, allowing the withholding of information due to “commercial interests”. But the Office of Government Commerce have stated that even where such an exemption may initially be warranted, the information should be made available after 12-18 months.

So, I’ve written to the NIAO asking for them to provide, for each of the 85 contracts surveyed:

  • the government department in question
  • the consultant(s) used
  • the background / description of the contract
  • the initial cost agreed, estimated, and/or approved
  • the total expenditure

Hopefully they’ll release this, and I can go digging further.

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