Government spends nearly £97m on consultants for Brexit, says NAO

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published its investigation into the use of consultants by government departments to support preparations for EU Exit.

By April 2019, departments had spent at least £97m on EU Exit consultancy. The Cabinet Office holds information on departments’ use of its support to access consultancy services for EU Exit work, but the firm said this does not represent all EU exit consultancy expenditure by departments.

Cabinet Office information shows that £65m had been spent or agreed to be spent on consultancy services in support of preparations for EU Exit from April 2018 to April 2019. The NAO reviewed data held by a sample of four departments and by the Crown Commercial Service and found an additional £32m in EU Exit consultancy expenditure.

It said this largely relates to contracts entered into before Cabinet Office began offering support to departments requiring consultancy support, and contracts with consultancy firms that departments are not able to access through the Cabinet Office arrangements.

A statement by the NAO read: “Cabinet Office analysis found that overall spending on consultancy services has increased since 2015-16 from £0.5bn to £1.5bn in 2017-18. However, the figures reported in departments’ annual reports for consultancy costs totalled £332m for 2017-18, compared with £134m for 2015-16.

“Cabinet Office informed the NAO that it was working to understand these differences and was planning to review trends in departments’ spending on consultancy and other professional services.

“Preparing for the UK’s exit from the EU has been a significant challenge for departments and has required skills such as project delivery and commercial skills that are in short supply.  In summer 2016, following the EU referendum, 12 of the then 17 main departments had identified a ‘considerable’ or ‘significant’ impact to their capability in policy, operational and specialist skill areas.”

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