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Consultants costing Wales £23m – WAO

The Welsh public sector could save £23m on consultant’s fees, the Wales Audit Office (WAO) has reported.

The public sector cannot prove it is getting value for money from the £133m it spends on external consultants, the report states. It highlights poor record-keeping and a lack of collaborating with each other.

Parts of the public sector did not have robust ways of deciding when consultants should be called in, and bringing consultants in was “rarely” supported by business cases. The WAO calls for the public sector to look at alternatives, including using their own staff.

In 2010-11 local government spent £86m on consultants and the Welsh Government spent £42m.

The auditor general, Huw Vaughan Thomas, said: “Consultants can be a great help to public bodies in offering specialist advice to help deliver new services and initiatives quickly, but there are risks if they are not managed effectively.

“Although expenditure on consultants has reduced since 2007-08, public bodies need to adopt the good practice identified in this report to improve value for money and deliver efficiency savings.”

Darren Millar, chairman of the assembly's public accounts committee, said: “Given the significant financial challenges they face, it is of some concern that public bodies in Wales are not taking advantage of the potential to achieve the substantial savings identified by this report.

“Where they are needed and are well managed, consultants can be incredibly useful and very worthwhile. But the failure to exercise good practice in the procurement and management of consultants puts the value of the public money spent on them at considerable risk.”

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