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Questions raised as highway consultancy bill revealed to be £3.5m

Questions raised as highway consultancy bill revealed to be £3.5m

Friday 24 March 2023

Questions raised as highway consultancy bill revealed to be £3.5m

Friday 24 March 2023

A Deputy is pushing for answers on whether the government could be using island-based companies more often rather than non-resident consultants, after it emerged that the government had racked up a £3.5m bill with a single UK company contracted to advise on “highway matters”.

Responding to questions from Deputy Raluca Kovacs, Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet confirmed that over a five-year period the large sum had been paid to WSP UK Limited, an external engineering consultancy firm, "to help undertake highway infrastructure asset management and works".

The Minister said that the firm was used because such expertise "is not available on-island or within the current team", adding that the rolling five-year contract with WSP - which he said was "procured in accordance" with the Government's rules for managing public money - is "shortly due to be re-tendered".

Deputy Kovacs described the total spend of £3.5 million as an "unpleasant surprise".

Alongside other States Members and members of the public, she said she remains "concerned about the amount of money" being spent on non-medical consultants, which had prompted her to delve deeper into the spending and ask questions.

Tom Binet.jpg

Pictured: Deputy Tom Binet, the Infrastructure Minister, revealed the £3.5m bill earlier this week.

"This is an ongoing piece of work," she explained. "...I am hoping to raise questions about if this is really necessary, whether our existing employees could do the work - and if not, why not? - whether we are getting value for money, and whether an island-based company could do this work.

"Generally, I am in favour of our own employees carrying out as much work as possible without the need to go elsewhere, either on- or off-Island."

The areas WSP was reported to have worked on by the Minister included highway maintenance schemes, highway drainage, bridge structures, vehicle restraint systems, traffic management schemes.

Information contained in a previous government report on its consultancy spend showed that WSP was also used to work on projects such as 'Coronation Park Fiscal Stimulus' and 'Regulatory Improvement', while information released under the Freedom of Information Law showed that the company had also been involved in smaller-scale projects like the re-surfacing of Mont Les Vaux in 2022.


Pictured: St. Saviour's Deputy Raluca Kovacs plans to "look closer" at the government's use of non-resident consultants.

Successive governments have come under fire for their high spend on consultants.

Reports published in February showed how the previous government spent £100m on consultants in its final year. Changes in 'economic circumstances' and the impact of the pandemic were cited as factors causing specialist skills shortages and recruitment issues, which had led to a need for external help.

Deputy Chief Minister Kirsten Morel later said the government was "absolutely committed" to reducing the millions of pounds spent on agency and other temporary staff every year - but said he couldn't make any guarantees on consultants.

A report released earlier this month by the government's spending watchdog - Comptroller and Auditor General Lynn Pamment - showed that the controversial plan to make £100m in savings involved the input of external consultants, leading to a bill "in excess of £1m".

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