Federal government's professional services spend rises to $16.4 billion

14 April 2021 Consulting.ca 2 min. read

The federal government’s spending on third-party consultants ballooned to $16.4 billion in 2019-2020, according to a report from the National Post.

The federal government’s expenditures on professional and special services – including engineering, legal, and management consulting services – have grown $6 billion since Trudeau took office in 2015. Consulting fees have swelled from $9.5 billion in 2015 to $16.4 billion last year – driven in part by increasing consultant spend during the pandemic.

The federal government, however, is also spending a lot more on its bureaucracy, with government worker salaries growing from $36.8 billion before 2015 to $47.5 billion in 2020. The federal public service has added 10,000 bureaucrats annually under the Liberal government, growing to approximately 380,000 people.

Federal government's professional services spend rises to $16.4 billion

Governments generally call in consultants to provide expert services in areas such as strategy, information technology, or engineering on a temporary basis. Government leaders contend that consulting firms provide specialized knowledge and services that the public service generally can’t offer, and that are more efficiently delivered via project-based contracts.

The Department of National Defence accounted for the largest share of consulting spend, at $4.4 billion, calling in the services of consultancies such as PwC and defense firms such as General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin. Other big spending departments were Public Works ($2.2 billion), Citizenship and Immigration ($931 million), and Employment ($864 billion).

Consulting firms have been an integral part of government response efforts to the pandemic – helping set up pandemic response frameworks, contact tracing systems, unemployment IT systems, and reopening plans.

Deloitte was earlier this year awarded a $16-million contract by the federal government to create an IT system that manages the vaccine rollout nationally.

Consulting firms can also be called into provide an impartial assessment during a scandal. Quintet Consulting, a specialist in workplace harassment, was paid nearly $400,000 for its report on the “toxic” work environment at Rideau Hall. Governor Gen. Julie Payette subsequently stepped down.