Government audit body targets use of consultants

The National Audit Office (NAO), an independent body that audits government spending, has launched an online toolkit to help public sector departments target their use of consultants.

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The National Audit Office (NAO), the independent body that audits government spending, has launched an online toolkit to help public sector organisations improve their use of consultants.

The move follows last week’s report calling for more intelligent use of consultants to keep down public sector costs, which the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee found to be £415m higher than necessary each year.

The NAO’s toolkit is based on the approach it used in its December 2006 report "Central government’s use of consultants". It works by users answering a series of questions about the use of consultants in an online form. The interactive toolkit then responds with an analysis of areas of weakness, provides guidance on how to improve value for money and illustrates what good practice should look like through case studies.

Keith Davis, Head of Efficiency Practice at the NAO, said that while consultants could provide valuable expertise to government, “too often departments rush into using consultants before thinking properly about whether resources are available in house.” He claimed that the toolkit could aid all public bodies in improving their use of consultants and help realise the efficiency gains required.

The toolkit was designed for procurement and commercial teams, buyers of consultancy services, and audit staff. It can be applied to the use of consultants department-wide or at a project level, and aims to diagnose areas of weakness and raise awareness of where improvements can be made.

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