To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services why he has hired outside consultants to work in his Department's computer centres; what has been the cost as compared with equivalent Civil Service staff; and if he will make a statement.
Consultants have been contracted to work in the Department on a number of information technology projects, principally in the development of our operational strategy, the major programme to computerise the assessment and delivery of social security benefit in the 1990s. The Department benefits from the direct input of their technical and information technology management expertise, which is not available in the Civil Service. This means that the major benefits and economies arising from computerisation will be achieved more quickly and effectively — indeed many of these very complex tasks undertaken in the computer centres would not be possible without the skills available in the private sector. As well as providing advice and guidance, consultants sometimes work along-side civil servants in joint teams responsible for delivery of specific products to tight time scales; such an arrangement has been used so that in-house staff can learn skills from the consultants whilst project development continues.It is not possible directly to compare costs between civil servants and consultants because, as indicated, staff with equivalent skills and the ability to deliver to the same time scale are not available.