Today
Thu 5 December 2019
Subscribe

Six global accountancy firms have won 96% of Brexit contracts, according to the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee.


Whitehall has been condemned by a powerful all-party committee of MPs for being over secretive about the award of nearly £100 million of management consultancy contracts to handle Brexit.

The Commons’ Public Accounts Committee has accused Whitehall of breaching Government guidelines in making details of the contracts public, awarding nearly all of the work to just six companies and covering up some of the contracts.

Its report said: “Departments are taking on average 119 days to publish basic details of their EU exit consultancy contracts, and in some instances as long as 237 days, compared to a Government guideline of 90 days.

The National Audit Office which is going to investigate the £8.6 billion now being spent on Brexit is expected to include further investigations to examine money awarded to consultancies as part of its probe.

“Some contracts have not been published at all, and at the time of our evidence session, those contracts which had been published were all significantly redacted, again despite a Government expectation that contracts should be published in full.”

Six global accountancy firms have won 96% of the business. They are: Deloitte (22%), PA Consulting (19%, PricewaterhouseCoopers (18%), Ernst & Young (15%), Bain & Company (11%), and Boston Consulting Group (10%).

The MPs found that nearly all of the work was on shaping Brexit policy – normally a Whitehall job – and only two contracts concentrated on the delivery of Brexit. These were awarded on 19 February this year – some six weeks before the UK was originally due to leave the EU on 29 March.

The committee also discovered that details of some of the published contracts were so heavily redacted as to be “meaningless”.

Don’t miss the chance to subscribe to our

DECEMBER NEWSPAPER

Printed this weekend

For the election news other papers don’t cover

There was also a wider problem.

Whitehall has no agreed definition of what a consultancy is – leaving each department to decide for itself. As a result, when the National Audit Office, Parliament’s financial watchdog, checked spending on consultants for the year 2017-18, it found that the money paid out to private consultants was five times higher that year than previously published.

Annual reports for each department disclosed £300 million had been spent on consultants – while the final figure for the whole of the Government was £1.5 billion.

The Cabinet Office blamed an “administrative error” for breaching Whitehall guidelines and accepted that it had failed to provide a proper definition of consultancies. But, it said that, because it had been so busy preparing for Brexit, it had not had enough time to address the problem.

The National Audit Office, which is going to investigate the £8.6 billion now being spent on Brexit, is expected to include further investigations to examine money awarded to consultancies as part of its probe.

More stories filed under Fact