The European Commission increasingly relies on external consultants. The amount spent on external consultants has grown from €799 million in 2017 to €971 million in 2020, which has prompted the European Court of Auditors (ECA) to look into the Commission's spending habits.
"The way the European Commission hires and uses external consultants does not fully ensure that it maximises value for money or fully safeguards its interests," an ECA report published Thursday stated.
Difficult to assess value
According to the report, there are clear issues as there is no definitive framework for using external advisory services.
“Outsourcing some tasks, I have to stress, can be useful and sometimes necessary, but the European Commission should make sure that in doing so it maximises the value obtained for the amount of money disbursed,” said François Roger-Cazala, an ECA member.
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The auditors warned that there are risks "related to the concentration of service providers, overdependence and conflicts of interest which are not sufficiently monitored", adding that there are issues with how the added value of consultants' work is assessed.
Too much of the 'big four'
According to the report, the Commission relies on these external services as they provide a cheaper alternative to hiring staff on-site.
The study comes after criticism last year concerning the Commission's use of the 'big four' consultancy firms, namely PwC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte.
The Commission has agreed to implement the report's recommendations, according to Cazala. Transparency as well as developing measures to decide on whether outsourcing work is necessary, as that currently isn't "happening enough."