A group of MPs has today raised concerns over government's apparent lack of urgency to plug the skills gap among its own ranks.
A report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found that government's spending on consultants and temporary staff, who can cost twice as much as permanent workers, has slowly crept up since the Cabinet Office introduced measures in 2009-10 to help lower these costs.
The PAC report also warned that, once a temporary staff member leaves, they take with them valuable experience and skills that they have learnt while working at the government department.
In light of its findings, the PAC is "not convinced" that the Cabinet Office has a clear strategy to reduce the skills gap across government and is concerned that this lack of workforce planning means "they do not know their future resource needs and will have to resort more often to using consultants and temporary staff".
The PAC recommends that all government departments should produce a workforce plan to span the next five years by this December. The committee also recommended that departments take steps to make sure temporary employees pay the correct taxes.
"There is a place for buying in expert advice and using temporary staff if there is a skills gap but departments first need to be sure they do not have access to these skills in-house," said Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC. "Getting this wrong costs the taxpayer dear.
"Filling permanent roles with temporary staff is short-sighted and does nothing to address underlying skills shortages in the civil service, nor to develop its expertise. When temps leave, valuable experience leaves with them."
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "We are actively building the skills we need to improve our delivery capability in a number of areas. But of course, sometimes we need specialist expertise quickly, especially where we are undertaking complex transformative projects and need to draw on experienced minds. But we only do this when the key skills are not readily available within the Civil Service and where it delivers better value for taxpayers."