Australian Commonwealth agencies have witnessed a staggering 12-fold surge in the use of external advisers over the past decade, leading to calls for stricter controls on consultant hiring and improved transparency in procurement reporting. The Centre for Public Integrity’s analysis revealed that management advisory services from the big four consultancies to the Commonwealth soared from $44 million in 2012-13 to a colossal $606 million in 2021-22, marking a 1276% increase in today’s dollar value. The rapid ascent is partly attributed to the Average Staffing Level cap initiated in 2015. The Centre urged the recentering of the Australian Public Service as the primary policy advisory organ of the government, recommending the employment of external consultants only for acute or emergent needs. Worryingly, existing procurement disclosure practices often obfuscate the actual services being purchased with public funds, undermining transparency and public confidence in achieving value for money. Additionally, accountability concerns arise due to the prevalent reliance on consultants in place of the public sector, particularly given incidents like the recent PwC scandal.

This is a summary of “Consultant work for federal agencies jumps 1300pc” published in AFR on 17th July 2023 and written by Tom Burton. Read it in full here.