Following a review, the spending watchdog- the National Audit Office (NAO), said departments had spent at least £97m on Brexit consultants by April 2019. The review discovered £32m in Brexit consultancy expenditure that was unaccounted for by the Cabinet Office.
Many contracts had been extended, particularly in April this year, when the date for the UK’s departure from the EU was changed to October 31. Under government guidelines, departments are supposed to publish details of such contracts within 90 days. But the NAO found it had taken an average of 119 days for basic information about Brexit consultancy contracts to be published. Moreover, six consultancy firms had received 96% of Brexit-related work, led by Deloitte, with 22% of contracts by value. The others were PA Consulting (19%), PwC (18%), EY (15%), Bain & Company (11%) and Boston Consulting Group (10%).
Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse’s report sets out how “limitations in the data” used by the Cabinet Office “inhibit its ability to fully understand” and there was “little oversight” of department’s expenditure on Brexit-related consultancy before April 2018. Sir Amyas said Cabinet Office was “working to understand the difference between the data sets” and would review spending. But he added that Brexit preparations had been a “significant challenge” for the Government. “Government has long-standing skill shortages in areas required for EU Exit, such as project delivery and commercial skills,” he said. “In summer 2016, following the EU referendum, 12 of the then 17 main departments had identified a ‘considerable’ or ‘significant’ impact to their capability in policy, operational and specialist skill areas.”
A Government spokesman defended the spending, which he said was “cost-efficient”. He said: “It is often more cost-efficient to draw upon the advice of external specialists for short-term projects requiring specialist skills. These include EU exit priorities such as ensuring the uninterrupted supply of medical products and food to the UK.”