The Lagan Valley MLA stated: “I am appalled that the amount the government spends on consultants has more than doubled in the past five years.
“I do not doubt the integrity of consultancies, but am not satisfied that there has been an effective system to indicate whether their work was of a high quality and represented value for money.
“The PAC’s report highlights several areas of major concern about the use of public money. I do not have a problem with government importing expertise in an area where they do not have those skills in-house, but the system is not strict enough.
“Too many contracts have been awarded without a competitive tendering process. Too many have resulted in cost overruns and negotiated extensions. I am not satisfied that an overrun or an extension has been managed any better than an original tender awarded without any competition.
“I am also appalled that post-contract evaluations have not been completed in 93% of cases. This figure now stands at 68% since the problem was highlighted. This is totally unacceptable. Also, the information supplied to the Committee by some Departments was insufficient to clearly establish the time position.
“Overall, a small number of consultancy firms are making enormous sums of money out of our government, and to date, the mechanisms for ensuring value for money have not been effective.
“In my short time as an MLA I have been struck by the ability of the private business sector to run rings around government.
“The Executive are now the paymasters, and ways must be found to ensure proper procurement arrangements and value for money to the taxpayer.”