The government has been using Deloitte to help ministers draft parliamentary questions and media lines to defend the ‘test and trace’ system.
Since the pandemic began, Deloitte has won public sector contracts worth £323m, according to figures from the Good Law Project.
Buried in those contracts are details of help with PR and communications, with a requirement to “draft and respond to parliamentary questions, Freedom of Information requests, media queries and other reactive requests” and to “support lines to take and Q&A’s in anticipation of queries,” Huffpost revealed this morning.
Is it typically a civil servant’s job to draft answers to parliamentary questions from MPs, and media lines are usually drafted in response to criticism of a particular policy by government officials.
The government has spent hundreds of millions of pounds on consultancy fees throughout the pandemic. There has been widespread criticism of the work, with grumblings centring on high fees and perceived poor work.
The government has also been accused of handing out contracts to close contacts of government ministers, and failing to advertise the huge tenders.
The findings raise questions about where the remit of consultants should end and if taxpayer money should be spent privately on jobs that could be carried out in-house.
Good Law Project legal director Gemma Abbott told Huffpost: “We have a government so addicted to outsourcing that it has even outsourced being held to account.
“Does anyone know where the Department for Deloitte ends and the Department for Health begins?”
In response to the story, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Huffpost: “The government employs contractors in the same vein that private businesses do and responsibility for answering parliamentary questions, freedom of information requests and media enquiries rests firmly with a team of civil service communications professionals within the Department of Health and Social Care.
“Every single response is subject to the highest levels of scrutiny to ensure they are both factual and detailed.”
City A.M. has contacted Deloitte for comment.