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Wales Audit Office - Public spending on consultants down but value for money questioned

Welsh public bodies are spending less on consultants but cannot demonstrate value for money in how they plan, obtain and manage consultancy services, says a report published yesterday by the Auditor General for Wales.

Public bodies spent £133 million on consultants in 2010-11, £40 million less than in 2007-08. All sectors - local government, health and the Welsh Government - recorded significant drops in spending. But despite these reductions very few public bodies were able to demonstrate that their expenditure represented good value for money. This is largely due to inadequate data, insufficient collaboration and a failure to adopt widely accepted good practice.

Adopting good practice in procuring and managing consultancy services can help public bodies achieve better value for money, and today's report identifies potential efficiency savings of more than £23 million if all public bodies were to follow good practice. However, few public bodies routinely collect and analyse data to assist in obtaining and using consultancy services more efficiently, and the data on expenditure is often unreliable. The report also found that:

  • there is scope for more collaboration between public bodies;
  • business cases were not widely used and, where they were used, they often left out key information such as estimated costs and benefits;
  • public bodies rarely consider alternatives to consultants, including using internal staff instead of consultants; and
  • there is considerable scope to improve the management of contracts, including the monitoring and evaluation of consultant performance.
Full press release available here

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