The National Audit Office spent £ 40million on consultants despite criticism from the NHS for relying on outside help


The National Audit Office has spent nearly £ 40million to hire private contractors despite recent criticism of the NHS Test and Trace for over-reliance on consultants.

The NAO hired accountants from five companies, including the big four groups of KPMG, Deloitte and EY, to assist it in its audits of public bodies, including charities, the Crown Estate, and pension and pension agencies. health.

The watchdog signed contracts worth £ 39million with the five companies earlier this year, according to official documents, which will run until July 2026.

The NAO said, “We work in partnership with supplier companies to ensure the performance of high quality audits that support effective accountability and lead to better financial reporting and financial management by public bodies.”

However, it comes after the watchdog criticized NHS Test and Trace in June for its overreliance on consultants.

The report says: “Consultants are much more expensive than civil servants or temporary staff in other public services.

“While access to consultants has provided [test and trace] with the skills and capacities to rapidly build testing and traceability capabilities, it may not be… the best use of public money to rely on consultants to deliver the services on an ongoing basis .

The NAO’s “financial audit contract” with the five private companies is a “fundamental part of being able to carry out our mission and achieve our goals,” the watchdog said.

A spokesperson added: “The NAO partners with suppliers to carry out part of its financial audit work, as this provides access to specialized expertise, helps ensure that high-quality audits are carried out and provides additional resources at peak times of the year.

“Supplier contracts are subject to a full competitive procurement and selection process. The use of suppliers by the NAO is approved by Parliament and contracting out this work was one of the main recommendations of Lord Sharman’s independent audit and accountability review. “

The pandemic has highlighted the use of consultants by ministers and public agencies to perform work that critics argue the civil service should have the capacity to cope with.

In October, the Public Accounts Committee criticized Britain’s test and traceability system, which was awarded £ 37bn by ministers, for its ineffectiveness and “tempting” cost.

A report from PAC said: ‘NHS Test and Trace has focused on program delivery, but its results have been confused and a number of its stated goals have been overestimated or not met.

“For the huge sums of money set aside for the program… the system has broken its central promise to avoid another foreclosure. “

Deloitte has been the biggest winner of Covid-related public sector contracts since the start of the pandemic, receiving more than £ 280million, according to data provider Tussell, including its work on testing programs.

Meanwhile, KPMG, which was hired by the NAO, has since withdrawn from tenders for public sector contracts after the Cabinet Office threatened it with a ban following a series of recent scandals.

The NAO monitors public spending on behalf of Parliament and has a budget of over £ 80million. Last year he certified more than 400 government agency accounts totaling £ 1.8 trillion in spending.

Following the agreement of the new contract, the NAO will call on accountants from KPMG, Deloitte, EY, Mazars and Azets Audit Services to assist it in its audits.

The contract stipulates that the Comptroller and Auditor General of the NAO retains overall responsibility for signing the audit opinion and issuing the audit certificate.

The watchdog said it will work with supplier firms to ensure audit engagements are carried out in accordance with relevant quality standards and expectations.


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