The UK government has awarded more than £600m of Covid-19 related contracts to consultants, more than a third higher than previously disclosed.
The figure for spending on consultants, based on new analysis by contracts research company Tussell, follows criticism of the government’s reliance on outsourcing to bolster its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The true amount spent on consultants is likely to be even higher because details of many contracts have yet to be published.
One firm, Deloitte, has been awarded 26 contracts worth up to £278.7m, primarily to support the rollout of the UK’s test-and-trace programme.
PwC, another of the Big Four professional services groups, has won 36 coronavirus-related contracts, more than any other firm. PwC, which had revenues of almost £4.4bn in the UK last year and paid its partners an average of £685,000 for the 12 months to June, was paid £37.6m by the British Business Bank, the Cabinet Office, the Department of Health and other parts of the public sector.
KPMG and EY, the other two Big Four firms, have been awarded contracts worth a total of £21.6m and £13.8m, respectively.
Boston Consulting Group won £29.5m of work while PA Consulting was handed 11 contracts worth £21.7m. Accenture and McKinsey won 32 roles between them, charging £18.6m and £11.3m, respectively. Polling firm Ipsos Mori was awarded four contracts worth up to £34.5m.
Eleven consulting firms including Deloitte have each won at least £10m of coronavirus-related public contracts and a combined total of more than £493m, according to Tussell. Another 172 financial and consulting companies have been awarded contracts worth an aggregate £111m, taking the total to more than £604m across 401 contracts, the data show.
The House of Commons public accounts committee last month criticised the government’s continued reliance on expensive consultants to deliver the test-and-trace programme, which has been allocated a total budget of £37bn over two years.
“Test and trace, particularly, is still very reliant on very highly paid consultants when really a lot of it is a logistical job,” Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, told the Financial Times. “These are people who are developing systems, which by now I would have thought would be bread and butter for government to deliver on its own,” she added.
The figures include a £145m contract awarded to Deloitte by the health department in January for continued work on the testing programme, which was blighted for months by delays in providing test results and tracing contacts of people who had tested positive for Covid-19.
Deloitte said it was providing teams and expertise to build the largest diagnostics network in UK history.
“Our people have contributed their expertise in digital technology, procurement, supply chain, logistics, real estate and project management, with the UK now capable of processing over 750,000 tests per day,” it added.
Tamzen Isacsson, chief executive of the Management Consultancies Association, said consultants had “provided exceptional support to government during this unprecedented period”, helping to repatriate hundreds of thousands of British nationals and to develop guidance for getting employees back to work safely.
The Cabinet Office said: “As part of our response to the pandemic, it has been necessary for the government to draw on extra resources and expertise from the private sector to tackle Covid-19.
“Ministers are concerned, however, that the government is too reliant on consultants and have written to departments to make clear that services should only be procured when external expertise is essential and represents value for money.”