n Journal of Public Administration - Use of consultants in the public sector : a waste of in-house skills




The use of consultants in the South African Public Sector leaves a lot to be desired. In 1996 and 2002 the Auditor General conducted performance audits on the use of consultants by government. The main findings of these audits related to acquisition and appointment processes; the monitoring and control of consultants; the departments' responsibility to create an environment conducive for consultants to work effectively; and the implementation of deliverables. The findings by the Auditor General were not pleasing. The National Treasury and the Department of Public Service and Administration issued various guidelines and regulations to improve the overall management and use of consultants. However, despite these, many weaknesses still exist. In 2013 the Auditor General again conducted audits with regard to the use of consultants and the results are not promising.

Managing the consultantship process in the public sector means grappling with two major issues. First is separating the act of selecting the consultant from the process of managing the consultant experience. This is simple only in theory. The problem is that selection of a consultant often determines how the management process will work or if it is, in fact, possible. The second issue is a bit different - how does one find advice or information on the topic of "management" in view of the almost romanticised view of the process? Consultants are "Business Healers" or "Efficiency Experts", particularly in the private sector literature (which is most of what is available). Consultants solve all corporate and now public ills. There is, of course, increasing question about their use in the public sector, which often becomes outright criticism. This disenchantment, however, has seldom resulted in specific discussions of managing the consultantship experience. This is most unfortunate for public managers who face performance audits as well as public criticism if a contract goes "sour". The fact is consultants are business inclined and they are profit driven and this becomes a challenge for public sector managers who are not in the same league.


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