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Consultants are costly

Governments and local authorities at all levels, in almost all countries, are paying out money by the fist full, the barrow full, the cart full and the truck full, to outside consultants for work rightfully in the domain of their own skilled staffs, technical, managerial, professional.

No sooner is a project mooted than the cry goes up. "Hire a consultant."

It is as if the people already in the employ of governments and local authorities are all nincompoops, devoid of expertise of any sort, and not to be entrusted with any task greater than signing attendance sheets, sick leave and vacation application forms, and looking for promotions.

It is a malaise, an epidemic fast becoming endemic, a pestilence that is all too pervasive, threatening to swamp those who see in the hiring of consultants an abdication of responsibility.

Canada has just gone through some costly experiences at the federal and municipal level.

Now comes news that even in cash-strapped Donegal, not by any means the richest county in Ireland, the local county council paid out 10 per cent of its annual budget in 2002 on consultants. The figure is staggering, amounting to almost eight million euro.

What makes the practice of hiring consultants by bodies such as the Donegal County Council in Ireland, and the City of Ottawa in Canada, such an object of interest is that in many cases those involved are unfamiliar with local conditions. That what they propose may uproot neighbourhoods, transgress on traditional social patterns, disrupt local economies, and upset a settled way of life pleasing both to residents and visitors, are matters they will not experience in their own lives.

Their reports, if acted upon, can always be blamed for any unforeseen consequences and hardships.

"It wasn't me. It was the consultants."

"No! It was you. You hired them."

And when their reports aren't acted on immediately?

"Let's shelve them. We can always take a look at them later."

"But conditions may change. What then?"

"We'll just get new consultants!"


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