The Saskatchewan NDP is kicking off its election campaign by targeting what it calls wasteful government spending on private consultants.
NDP leader Cam Broten says the campaign will focus on three key areas including: cutting government waste, putting more money in the pockets of middle class families, and fixing services like healthcare and education. He made the campaign announcement at a media event at the Delta Hotel on Tuesday morning.
Broten says the SaskParty has ramped up spending on outside consultants by more than 300 per cent since taking office in 2007. He also pointed to the provincial auditor’s report that showed that 70 per cent of the consultants have no documentation on why they were hired and 90 per cent don’t have any process to evaluate the work they are doing. He said this highlights a lack of accountability for consultants.
If the NDP is elected to government, Broten is proposing to save $59 million per year by cutting down the spending on outside consultants.
“It’s obscene. What government needs to spend $130 million on outside consultants each and every year for advice?” Broten said.
He says rolling back this spending will free up money to invest in priorities like healthcare and schools.
In response to a question about how this will save money year after year, when consultants are a one-time cost, Broten said the SaskParty’s reliance on consultants has become a structural cost.
“This has been a trend line going up and up, so in fact it is an ongoing expense because that’s how the SaskParty has treated the use of consultants, as a regular go-to, which costs more and which isn’t as effective at getting the job done,” Broten said.
Broten said he is not talking about a complete end to hiring private consultants, noting that there is some work consultants can do.
“It’s about deciding that we can get the job done with the professional civil servants we have, and allowing and trusting the civil servants to do that work, as oppose to farming things out time and time again,” he explained.
He says the NDP’s solution would be to rebuild the public service in some areas and hire Saskatchewan firms for the rest.
Premier says consulting fees are up because infrastructure building is up across government ministries
Premier Brad Wall briefly responded to the NDP’s campaign promise during an event in Weyburn. He called the claims naive, saying that the increase in consulting fees is directly linked to the record investment in major projects like the Regina Bypass and highway twinning projects.
“These require consultants, and we don’t want to hire permanent professionals or permanent civil servants if we can take care of the work through the hiring of consultants,” Wall said. “So yes the number has gone up, because infrastructure building is up across government in the Crowns and certainly in the Highway sector, but in health as well.”
Broten pointed to $60.8 million spent on private consultants for the Ministry of Highways. He said that the costs are going up but the actual results for those projects seem to be taking more time.