Test and Trace spends £1 million per day on Deloitte consultants

02 July 2021 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

UK Parliament’s spending watchdog has found that the Government’s dependence on consultants to improve its Test and Trace app is yet to diminish. In particular, consultants from Deloitte have brought in a combined £1 million in daily fees, with some senior advisors billing more than £6,000 for a single day.

At the end of June, it emerged that Britain's much-maligned pandemic Test and Trace system was still missing targets, while the results of millions of tests to find asymptomatic cases have not been reported. According to Parliament's spending watchdog the National Audit Office, during a surge in cases in December, only 17% of people received test results in 24 hours against a target of 90%. Meanwhile, the NAO also noted that while the government's scientific advisors said for the system to work, no more than 48 hours should pass between identifying a case and their contacts isolating, that time varied between a median of 74 and 97 hours in January and April.

The findings regarding missed targets were nothing new – but neither were other findings relating to the spending of public money on consultants for the failed system. While the Government has continuously been criticised for over-dependence on consultants when addressing the pandemic – as well as for the growing cost to the public this has incurred – it emerged that it had repeatedly doubled down on its professional services spending during the second wave of Covid-19.

Test and Trace spends £1 million per day on Deloitte consultants

Many consulting firms have repeatedly found themselves under intense scrutiny as a result of this, including McKinsey & CompanyPwC and KPMG. Deloitte has arguably been the most prominent though, having routinely been cited by opposition figures as why the public health response to coronavirus ought to have been carried out inhouse.

According to the NAO, Deloitte is by far the consultancy with the highest value of Test and Trace contracts. The ombudsman said the firm had contracts valued at £298 million in place with the programme, and that £174 million had been spent by the end of March 2021. Among the deals won by the firm is a £50 million engagement for the delivery of the online platform for booking coronavirus tests.

The findings stand in stark contrast to the claims of then Department of Health and Social Care second permanent secretary David Williams in January, when he assured Parliament's Public Accounts Committee that there was a plan in place to “reduce markedly” the number of consultants from Deloitte who were working on Test and Trace. Williams has since become permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence – but at the time he claimed there were “around 900” staff from the consultancy working on Test and Trace, who he expected were costing £1,000 a day each – meaning the daily total was close to £1 million.

During the statement he declined to comment on reports that some of the Deloitte advisors were billing their services at up to £7,000 a day. One month later though, Baroness Dido Harding – who was serving as head of the programme – confirmed to the Public Accounts Committee that some senior consultants working on the operation had been paid up to £6,624 a day for their services.

Public sector organisations often contract consultants for projects when they believe they do not have the inhouse knowhow or capacity to meet targets without outsourcing. One Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson alluded to this, while suggesting the engagement of consultants like Deloitte means necessary skills have been built up within the department.

They explained, “While NHS Test and Trace continues to be one of the centrepieces of our roadmap to return life to normal, our new UK Health Security Agency is going to consolidate the enormous expertise that now exists across our health system so we can face down potential future threats and viruses.”

In line with this, the NAO also noted in its report that Test and Trace’s current plans featured the reduction of consultancy spending. This includes the appointing of a senior responsible owner for the reduction of the Deloitte contract, with its presence falling from 1,035 consultants in February down to 449 by September.

Other consultancies noted for their hefty Test and Trace fees included IBM, with contracts valued at £40 million, and a figure of £21 million spent by the end of March. Meanwhile, AccentureBoston Consulting Group and PA Consulting each with committed contracts worth £30 million and varying amounts of spend.