National is the party of stupid, short term thinking. It’s evident everywhere, even in areas of supposed Nat strength like sound business management. Consider for example the abject folly of sacking a bunch of staff, and then running up $1bn in consulting fees:
Govt depts clock up $1bn in consultant fees
Government departments which have spent millions in laying off staff are responsible for nearly $1 billion in consultants’ fees.
Figures provided by the Labour Party showed ten agencies have spent $910.5 million on contractors since 2008 while also spending $114.1 million on redundancies.
The restructuring of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) had seen departing staff collect $31.3 million in redundancy payments before contractors were hired at a cost of $125 million.
There are further case studies reported here, but carrying on with the above coverage:
Labour’s State Services spokesman Chris Hipkins said the figures made a mockery of National’s claim that it was moving resources from the back office to the frontline.
“The public service has already lost a huge amount of valuable expertise and experience and is simply plugging the gap by hiring consultants. “This is short-term thinking and it doesn’t make sense. We must invest in and value institutional knowledge.”
While in Opposition, National was highly critical of Labour’s failure to keep consultancy fees under control.
Finance Minister Bill English said the contractors had been employed for work which the public service had neither the funding nor the expertise to do. He said specialist skills were needed for the rebuild of Christchurch, the design of the Deposit Guarantee Scheme, and on multi-billion dollar IT projects.
“We just don’t have public servants sitting around who know how to redo the 25 year-old tax collection system,” he said.
Every government needs, and has used, a certain amount of external consulting support. But mass redundancies, then hiring some of those people back as expensive consultants, and running up a billion in fees, makes no kind of sense at all. If essential expertise doesn’t exist within an organisation then the sensible alternative to redundancies and external consultants is internal professional development.
Here’s the real question for the Nats’ management of the public sector – has there been a cost/benefit analysis of professional development for existing staff vs redundancies and external consultancy? If so, let’s see it. If not, then they’re throwing money down yet another ideological drain.