Government Brexit consultants – expensive and secret

“Government departments have ploughed nearly £100m into “overly secretive” Brexit consultant contracts since the 2016 referendum, MPs have said.

Publicly available information on consultancy work to prepare for Brexit is lacking and in some cases has taken too long – up to 237 days – to materialise, according to a Public Accounts Committee report out today.

Government guidelines say details of contracts should be published within 90 days of being awarded.

“Departments have been overly secretive about what the consultants are doing,” the PAC said.

“When departments have published information on consultancy work, usually later than they should have, they have failed to meet the government’s own transparency standards.”

Even when documents are published they are often “over-zealously redacted, the committee added.

The MPs also accused the government of being “overly relaxed” that 96% of the £97m spent on consultancy contracts has gone on just six large companies, despite the governments supposed “aspirations for more government work to go to small and medium-sized enterprise”.

The committee report suggested the true cost of Brexit consultancy work was not known, due to differing definitions of ‘consultancy’.

It said: “There is a widening gap between the Cabinet Office’s analysis of data on overall spending on consultancy services, not just to support Brexit, and expenditure reported by the departments.

“It appears that different departments are choosing to categorise their spending on consultancy services in different ways.”

For 2017-18 the Cabinet Office said total spend on all consultancy – not just for Brexit – was £1.5bn whereas analysis of invoices from individual departments suggested only £0.3bn was spent.

The Cabinet Office has been approached for a response. …”

Source: CIPFA (pay wall)