MBIE racks up $35m bill on consultants

Finance Minister Steven Joyce (file)
Steven Joyce was Economic Development Minister at the time (file)

Taxpayers have forked out nearly $35 million over the last three years for contractors and consultants at the Government's mega-ministry MBIE.

Documents obtained by Newshub show the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) used around 900 different consultants during that time, with some being paid as much as $800 an hour.

The biggest payment was to PriceWaterHouseCoopers, which received $1.5 million last year alone for consultancy work, including $41,200 for what MBIE calls "customer-centric co-design initiatives".

One outsourced consultancy company, Martin Jenkins, was paid nearly $1 million last year, of which $248,464 was for an "immigration-welfare interface programme".

There are also payments of $251,815 to recruitment firm Beyond Recruitment for a 'Senior Commercial Advisor', and $198,523 for another analyst with company Allen and Clarke.  

HR and recruitment specialists Chandler MacLeod were hired for 'ministerial writing' at a cost of $103,703.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce was Economic Development Minister at the time and says the spending was at the prerogative of MBIE, not him.

"It's for MBIE to justify the individual costs around individuals contracts, but overall it's delivered savings for the Government," he says.

"It's their job to decide how they fill those positions and what stuff they do internally and what consultancy, I'm just not involved."

Labour MP David Clark says the $36 million bill is excessive but isn't surprised, given MBIE's track record of big spending on signs, televisions and hair straighteners.

"MBIE are spending a ridiculous amount of money on consultants, a good portion of what they're doing is core business, I'm afraid the Minister needs to front up and explain," Dr Clark says.

"The real concern is Steven Joyce is now in charge of the Treasury accounts, and we've got to ask if this is responsible of the Government to put him in that position, when he has such a poor track record of spending taxpayer's money wisely."