Consultants part of a rapidly growing $14 billion-a-year outsourced industry serving government are stalking the wounded federal public service for more work.
Latest AusTender figures show federal spending on outsourced managers and business advisors as well as administrative and human resource services grew by more than $6 billion – or 70 per cent – in the space of a year.
A part of this are companies keen to win contracts advising the Commonwealth for the flurry of work that will follow if many of the recommendations from the National Commission of Audit – slammed by the opposition as a report for big business – are brought in to restructure the way the government operates.
Suggested changes could mean some government agencies are privatised while others are merged or abolished – all while taking work away from public servants and pumping money into the private sector.
Companies ready to mop up any work in Canberra include KPMG.
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It is advertising for more employees to increase the size of its federal government advisory team made up of professionals with a variety of skills from specialists in procurement and staff who can estimate costs for Defence purchases.
There is also the self-described world leader in business strategy, Boston Consulting Group.
Boston Consulting advised the commission on management-staff ratios, which led to a recommendation describing the Australian public service as top heavy, particularly in the executive level 1 and 2 categories and a suggestion to slim management ranks.
The chief executive of medium-sized firm Canberra Consulting, Jason Pepper, said he was starting to employ a few more people in his small central office, which is the base for 100 workers contracted to government.
"In the commission of audit I see a lot of opportunities for us," said Mr Pepper, whose business deals with jobs worth between $1 million and $10 million.
Colliers International's Canberra-based director of valuation, Matthew Curtis, said Colliers had been in talks with the federal government about potential work pricing Commonwealth property that could be sold and the leasing of office space while departments were consolidating.
The company had also picked up a small amount of work following the closure of the Australian Valuation Office.
Canberra-based managing director of Protiviti, Mark Harrison, said his firm in the ACT had increased in size by 16 per cent to 30 staff and expected more growth while austerity measures carved away thousands of public service jobs.
“In this environment, every federal department and agency is expected to deliver similar outcomes with less, and to work smarter," Mr Harrison said.
"Departments do not always have the right combination of management cost accounting and business administration skills in-house to pull off a successful downsizing. Consulting firms are being brought in to fill these gaps.
“Departments need to understand whether the savings they are being asked to achieve are deliverable and what business processes need to change as a result of their cost-cutting.
"These matters will be top of mind for any department or agency head as we move into an era of smaller government.
"There will be big changes, but department heads and their finance managers should view this as an opportunity to streamline their operations and to identify and improve efficiencies."