Scope of the inquiry
Since early 2018, Government departments have used consultants in their preparations for exiting the EU. The Cabinet Office and departments were concerned that they would not be able to make sufficient progress in their EU Exit work because of difficulties in securing the required expertise, particularly in areas such as strategic planning and programme management.
In a recent report, the National Audit Office (NAO) have found that by April 2019, departments had spent or agreed to spend £97 million on consultancy. The total maximum value of contracts, which run to February 2020, is £240 million – although the Cabinet Office does not expect that all of this will be used.
The NAO investigation also found that departments have not met the standards of transparency expected by government when publishing details of contracts. In fact, publishing basic details for EU Exit consultancy contracts has taken on average 119 days, whereas the Crown Commercial Service normally recommends this information is published within 90 days. The contracts that have been published are significantly redacted.
On 12 June at the start of its session on Sale of public land, the Public Accounts Committee will question John Manzoni, head of the Cabinet Office, on how departments are using consultants for EU Exit work and examine the transparency of arrangements. The Committee may also challenge the Cabinet Office on what it is doing to improve its understanding of overall spending on consultancy.