Red Alert

Consultants for core administrative tasks?

Posted by on January 10th, 2013

Back in 2008 the then National opposition made two ‘key’ pledges when it came to public services. The first was to ‘cap but not cut’ the number of public servants, and the second was to ‘move resources from the back office to the frontline’. They didn’t keep either promise, but more importantly, evidence is increasingly emerging that their approach to public service provision is costing the taxpayer more, not less.

National’s cap on public service numbers has led to a blowout in consultancy costs, as government agencies continue to deal with the same, or in many cases greater, workloads with fewer people on board to do the work.

Take the Ministry of Education for example. This week I released data that shows they’ve been engaging expensive consultants to undertake core administrative tasks like processing official information requests, drafting ministerial documents, and writing business cases. I’ve got no problem with departments bring in outside expertise when a particular set of skills are required, but this is bread and butter stuff any department the size of the Ministry of Education should be able to deal with.

Between 2008 and 2011 ten of the biggest government departments spent a whopping $910 million on consultants and contractors between them. Those same agencies spent $114 million making people redundant during the same period. Increasingly anecdotal evidence is emerging of former employees being engaged as consultants to do the work they used to do for a lot less when they were employees.

National’s consultancy culture isn’t saving us money, it’s costing us more. It’s also leading to an erosion of the core capability of the public service, and some of the haphazard decisions ministers are making, often based on weak advice, reflect that.

Our democratic system relies on there being a quality public service with the expertise and capability to deliver on the priorities of the government of the day, whomever that may be. That includes the capability to deliver advice the government of the day might not like. Under National, that capability is being seriously eroded.

6 Responses to “Consultants for core administrative tasks?”

  1. wyndham says:

    It never was National’s intention to save money. Simply the old Tory line of handing “public service” over to the private sector. Cost to the taxpayer doesn’t come into it.
    These neo-liberals will destroy any existing structure in order to promote their ideological fixation that the private sector is somehow better.

  2. Red Guard says:

    Well put Chris, as a public servant I’ve seen this stupidity in action first hand; equally when Tory Minister’s do their rounds visiting various work sites management are afraid to admit that they are under resourced and under staffed; though lets be honest any appeals to maintain the integrity of our public services would fall on not only deaf but uncaring ears.

  3. GeoffC says:

    Flp flop flip flop same pattern are being repeated but chip by chip society is moving rightwards.
    New direction must inc Clare curran open govt to anchor societal drift inc the wider community in a continual manner as opposed to JIT electioneering.
    Look to establish cross linkages with org structures and individuals solidifying and consolidating a broad front that via non msm channels labour can get traction within the electorate.
    Organise early, gather electoral info now, start to mobilise and reconnect even T the expense of a power share between caucus and the beltway brain trust, grass roots members and external supporters.
    This is a fight not just for all new zea landers but for the very existence of our established way of life. It being eroded in the short term rush to generate corporate profit.
    Are we simple small cogs in the system or are businesses the cogs harnessed to satisfy our needs and wants…time to simplify the message and control the defining language.
    2013 a new dawn te Atatu arise and the social democratic parties need traction, need to unite, to focus on the real issue…the economic system, rest is simply short term policy gains.

  4. bbfloyd says:

    I have to endorseWyndam, and red guards comments…I will add this though…

    While I applaud Chris for highlighting this issue, I am slightly confused as to why he seems surprised by the outcomes those of us who have lived through tory governments have learnt to expect…

    Why act surprised when we all knew what was going to happen… Why weren’t the raiding party’s puppets being called out as liars four years ago? Surely the odds on being proved right were so short as to qualify as a “sure bet”……

    In short… You don’t need to be so polite about the obvious lies that were told(yet again) by, yet another gang of theives, elected on the back of massive corporate/media support to do no more than what they were paid to do… Steal back the money we “stole” from them when our forefathers/mothers laid down their lives to get some dignity, and a future for our children…

  5. A Mother says:

    That’s okay. They can save some money by taking away the ability to get ear grommets. That will save millions.

    *(please take my comment as sarcastic)

  6. Marty says:

    I believe that National’s preference for consultants to do core work all stems from their determination to see the NZ workforce casualised as much as possible. If National had its way, scarcely anybody would have a full-time job with the benefits that we have earned, eg. sick pay, holiday pay, bereavement leave, etc. We would all be contractors. And who would this benefit? Nationalis rich corporate mates, of course, it certainly wouldn’t benefit most of us workers.