Sunday 20 January 2019

FF: Government wasting millions on consultants

Serious questions: Fianna Fail’s Barry Cowen. Picture: Collins
Serious questions: Fianna Fail’s Barry Cowen. Picture: Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Fianna Fáil has accused the Government of a "serious waste of resources" amid criticism it has splashed out millions on external consultant reports.

Newly released figures show Fine Gael-led governments have commissioned more than 1,000 reports across 17 departments at a cost of more than €42m since 2011.

The average cost was €40,000, with one report alone costing in the region of €2.7m.

Fianna Fáil's public expenditure spokesman Barry Cowen said: "This is a massive amount of money to have been forked out on consultants when we already have a highly skilled civil service who know the inner workings of their respective departments inside out." He said it raised "serious questions" about value for money, and departmental staff should be upskilled and internal expertise be drawn upon.

"I believe that a number of the reports are a serious waste of resources that could be better spent elsewhere," Mr Cowen added.

He said "some departments are massively relying on external consultants" and pointed to Education, which has commissioned 141 reports since March 2011.

"Fianna Fáil has consistently raised this matter and has outlined what precisely needs to be done to better utilise existing resources," Mr Cowen said.

He said the Oireachtas committee system should be given greater powers to review the use of external consultancy reports. He suggested committees could probe whether they provide value for money, don't duplicate efforts undertaken by civil servants, and ensure they "offer worthwhile insights into pressing problems".

"We also need to focus on upskilling civil service staff to limit the need for expensive external expertise," he said.

A spokesman for Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe last night insisted that "all consultants are engaged in compliance with value for money guidelines procurement rules and only where necessary to provide external expertise on specific matters".

Irish Independent

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