Government to examine £2m it spent on consultants to assist with assessment of emergency grant bids

The government has pledged to examine the value for money provided by spending £2m on consultants to assist with assessing bids made by charities for emergency funds. 

A report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee in June criticised the government for failing to provide “a clear rationale for spending up to £2m of taxpayers’ money on the consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to assist with the assessment of bids” for more than £500m of emergency funds offered to voluntary sector organisations during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The PAC report also concluded that the government had no information on where more than £100m in emergency Covid-19 support for charities had been spent. 

The report rounded up the findings of the PAC’s inquiry into £513m allocated to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to help charities meet increased demand during the pandemic.

The sum was part of the £750m emergency funding package to help voluntary sector organisations during the pandemic, announced in April last year. 

In a response to the PAC report, published by the government last week, the government says the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport will write to the committee within three months setting out “how it judges the value for money of this contract and any lessons learned as to how and when it would apply a similar approach in future”. 

It will also set out how much fraud had taken place and the extent to which funds had been recovered.

The government response says PwC had “met the relevant performance metrics at all stages”. 

The response also says it would be “difficult to determine how and when a similar approach would be applied in future given the specific national and far-reaching challenges presented to government in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The government response promises to write to the committee setting out the steps it will take to ensure transparency of future funding decisions. 

It will also conduct an evaluation of the impact of funding given to voluntary sector organisations, including charities that did not receive any money from the scheme. 

But the government said it would not agree to a PAC recommendation that it should set out the triggers that would prompt it to consider further financial support to the charity sector. 

“There is no single data source that can provide a definitive trigger for taking a decision on further financial support,” the response says. 

“The circumstances under which further support would be assessed must be based on a range of quantitative and qualitative sources, including intelligence on challenges facing critical sub-sectors.”

But the government did say it would set out for the committee the range of evidence, data and intelligence under which support to the sector, including financial support, would be assessed.

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