Consultant Spending Called into Question

MPs have called into question the use of external consultants by federal government departments amid a cost blowout.


Parliament's Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit has ordered an inquiry into consultancy spending.

The audit office recently found Commonwealth procurement through contractors, consultants and labour hire totalled nearly $50 billion last financial year alone, and the Turnbull Government is looking for even more opportunities to line the pockets of private companies through these kinds of arrangements.

Multinational companies like KPMG, EY, PwC and Deloitte have reaped tens of millions of dollars through Commonwealth contracts, and the Turnbull Government is increasingly turning to labour hire arrangements that are bad for workers and bad for public services.

The Government announced in October it would pay Serco, a multinational company that’s previously run immigration detention centres while paying little or no tax, more than $50 million to provide Centrelink call centre services. Similarly, the Government’s in the final stages of outsourcing call centre work for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

There are many problems with this growing use of outsourcing under the Turnbull Government. Firstly, using profit making enterprises generally means higher costs and lower quality services. Secondly, the hard-working people who actually provide the services end up being paid less without decent working conditions. And thirdly, there’s none of the transparency that is guaranteed when Commonwealth agencies do this work themselves.

The results speak for themselves. Major failures are occurring at an ever increasing rate as the Government’s cut public sector capacity and funnelled that money into outsourcing, from the 55 million calls to Centrelink that went unanswered last year to the robo-debt debacle and Census failure.

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