Saturday, November 04, 2006

No Experience Needed (Not)

No not fork handles - I said "artificial legs"

We've blogged the widespread use of temps in the public sector before (eg see here). The government admits it accounts for half of the entire £12bn pa UK temps market, and our focus has been on the enormous financial cost of such hand-to-mouth practices.

But of course, there's another equally important problem, which is that temps are rarely familiar with the specifics of the job. Indeed, as we've just seen in the case of the Rural Payments Agency fiasco (see here and here), they often don't know what they're doing at all, and end up costing us a fortune to sort out their cock-ups.

So we should be alarmed at the revelation that 95% (yes 95%!) of the staff at the Department of Health's procurement division - the Commercial Directorate (CD) - are temps and contractors. Only 10 out of 230 are permanent civil servants.

Now, the CD is currently responsible for managing that highly controversial £4bn pa health procurement outsourcing deal (see this blog). We were nervous about that right from the start, because the chosen outsourcing contractor is under investigation by the US Department of Justice for allegedly overcharging Federal health programmes. And we doubted the ability of Britain's Simple Shopper to handle such a meat-eating beast.

The knowledge that our shopper is now staffed almost entirely by temps and contractors is the absolute confirmation.

Get ready for health supplies that aren't fit for purpose, and some big bills to put things right... those things that can be put right, that is.

PS Since it was set up a couple of years ago, the CD has already spent £67m on external consultants.

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