THE government spent £47 million on consultants and interim workers in the first six months of 2021 – almost double that of the same period two years earlier.
Since the beginning of 2019, ministers have been required to report to the States every six months on the cost of consultants, interims, fixed-term employees and agency staff, following a successful proposition from Deputy Kirsten Morel.
During the first half of 2019, total spending of this kind was £25 million. The latest report, which covered January to June last year, revealed that spending had risen to £47 million, having steadily increased during the two years.
Deputy Inna Gardiner, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee spending watchdog, said that the matter would be investigated by her team, with a focus on whether staff shortages in the public sector were driving more use of temporary staff and consultants.
She said: ‘It’s concerning that we have an almost 100% increase. We need to understand the reasons and PAC will look into this in January.
‘We know that the government is struggling to recruit for health and community care, modernisation and digital, infrastructure, housing and environment. We will need to look and understand if declared efficiencies in reductions of staff didn’t lead us to higher spending on consultants.’
She added: ‘Contractors typically cost significantly more than the equivalent permanent employee of a similar skill set.
‘PAC will question this during the public hearing with the Treasurer [Richard Bell] on 17 January and at the public hearing with the interim chief executive on 31 January.’
A government spokesperson said that the increase was driven by major programmes, as well as Covid-19 costs such as the Nightingale Wing, testing programme and vaccinations.
They also said that the scope of the report had expanded to include all agency healthcare and social workers, which had resulted in a ten-fold increase in this area, accounting for £8.133 million of the spend detailed in the report.
The spokesperson said: ‘Recruitment during the pandemic has been challenging with a general reluctance of people to change jobs during times of great uncertainty and, where the skills need to be brought in from outside the Island, a reluctance to relocate during the pandemic.
‘These issues are not unique to government and are being experienced by many employers in the Island although, as by far the largest employer, government is particularly impacted. The main area of concern is where government is unable to attract particular skills and knowledge that it requires and where this situation precedes the start of the pandemic. While not large in number, there are important roles, for example in the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department and in the Chief Operating Officer Department, where the government has struggled to attract quality candidates from either on- or off-Island for some time.’
Commenting on measures to reduce spending on interims and consultants, the spokesperson said it would ‘require a long term commitment to developing the skills and knowledge in the Island’.
‘Government is also looking to significantly increase the number of apprenticeships it provides, focusing on school-leavers, those graduating from university and those looking to make a career change,’ they added.
‘In 2021, we launched a government-wide paid internship programme for local students and supported 34 Islanders. In addition, as part of our Early in Careers programme, People and Corporate Services relaunched the apprenticeship programme for the Infrastructure Housing and Environment Department to bring in entry-level apprenticeships.
‘This is the first of many new apprenticeship programmes to be launched over the course of 2021/22.’