BCG seniors paid over £6,000 a day on test and trace project

20 October 2020 4 min. read

Senior members of Boston Consulting Group have been paid over £6,000 per day to help improve the UK’s test and trace project.

In the absence of a vaccine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Government unveiled a “world-beating” test and trace system, which it was claimed would enable people to carry on normal lives without imposing a second lockdown to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 in the UK. Since Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the Treasury would sink £10 billion funding into the scheme, however, it is hard to see exactly where the resources, time and money has gone.

The UK is now in the grip of a worse coronavirus outbreak than before it adopted a nationwide lockdown through the spring, while pubs have been ordered to close, extended families have once again been forced to stop meeting and intensive care beds in hospitals have quickly filled up again. It is hard to refute claims from the Government’s critics that the window of opportunity bought by the lockdown has been squandered, or to argue with the Government’s own Sage scientific advisers who have concluded that the test and trace initiative is not working.

BCG seniors paid over £6,000 a day on test and trace project

Official figures in September confirmed a 75% increase in positive weekly cases across England, demonstrating just how important the tracing of cases was becoming. At the same time, The Guardian also revealed that at the time, 90% of tests were failing to hit the 24-hour turnaround target, leading the test and trace system to face claims it was “barely functional.”

The British press suggest was soon awash with stories regarding an army of professionals being lined up to try and rewire the beleaguered app. Leading on from that, as the cost of the system balloons over £12 billion mark, reports have broken that senior executives from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) are being paid fees equivalent to £1.5 million a year to help speed up and reorganise the test and trace network.

While BCG declined to comment, a source with knowledge of the contract said individual consultants from the firm could earn £2,400 a day; while the most senior consultants up to £7,360. Typically, senior executives are only involved in short roles and quality assurance meaning the bulk of the hours BCG charged will have been for junior and medium rate professionals – however, the figures, first disclosed by Sky News, show that overall BCG still charged £10 million for 40 people to work on the virus test and trace programme over the course of four months.

The test and trace network has also been outsourcing work to a huge number of professionals from other consulting firms. 1,000 consultants employed by Deloitte have also worked on the system, while more staff from top professional services firms like KPMG and EY have been put on standby to work on “back office” parts of the system on a short-term basis over the next six months.

Responding to media criticism of the Government’s use of consultants for test and trace, Tamzen Isacsson, Management Consultancies Association Chief Executive, said, “The consulting sector has been able to bring in experience very quickly to support Government and deal with complex negotiations around data, infrastructure and procurement at pace… We should remember that Government is dealing with an unprecedented volume of workload and major upheaval both due to Covid-19 and Brexit and using external resources has enabled the Government to work quickly and with intensity in many areas.”

The contract is just the latest in a series of stories relating to Government spending on consultants for its Covid-19 response. Publicly available data collated by the Spend Network show that BCG has been awarded contracts worth at least £18.3m for work related to the pandemic, while more broadly, The Guardian and online journalism platform openDemocracy revealed in August that Whitehall had handed out contracts worth a total of £56 million to help with the national response to Covid-19. According to The Financial Times, that figure has long since moved beyond £175 million.