Government's billion dollar spend on consultants under attack from National

Almost a billion dollars a year - that's how much the Government's been spending each year on contractors and consultants since 2018, despite its own moves to reduce its consultancy cash splash.

The National Party is accusing Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins of failing to keep a lid on spending.

There's a lot you can do with $1 billion: You could fund more than 14,500 registered nurses, more than 19,000 teachers or buy around 74 million blocks of cheese. 

But instead, the Governments spending a billion bucks a year on contractors and consultants.

"There can be good reasons why ministries and departments would spend money on contractors and consultants… if you look at big capital projects, for example, it is just the way that that sector works," said Hipkins. 

Back in 2018, the cap on public servants was removed with the aim being to reduce the Government's contractor and consultant spend.

Since then, the number of public servants has grown, but the Government's still spending just as much taxpayer money on contractors and consultants.

"It's a failure on [Hipkins's] part, and it's an addiction to spending by this Government," National's Simeon Brown said. 

Asked if he had failed, Hipkins said: "No, not at all."

There are some departments relying more and more on them. 

In the last five years, the Education Review Office has upped its spending by 154 percent but wouldn't comment on why.

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples has increased by 244 percent, pointing to its rapid growth and back-filling while recruiting.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has splashed out a whopping 700 percent more, citing its COVID-19 response and building the business case for the country's new Public Media Entity. 

"There is waste that needs to be brought under control so that every single dollar is spent efficiently and wisely," said Brown.

Hipkins said: "We do need to look at that closely to make sure it's all justified, there's a lot of scrutiny on that area now, that's a good thing".

Scrutiny welcomed, but the Government's yet to make a dent in its billion-dollar spend.