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Scottish Government, KPMG and the National Care Service

Nick Kempe – 24th March 2022

The Scottish Government’s decision to award KPMG the £546k contract to design the National Care Service is looking more immoral by the day.

Last week Private Eye revealed KPMG had about 4,500 staff in Russia and Belarus.  In response to the attack on Ukraine, KPMG have separated their operations in these countries from their “international network” – whatever that means.   Meantime, KPMG was celebrating the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority become a “significant client” the week that country executed 81 people in one day.  KPMG claims to be a “values-driven organisation” but it appears their values are not those that should be leading the design of a National Care Service in Scotland.

The award of the NCS contract to KPMG was announced on 10th January, over three weeks after news emerged on 17th December that the company had withdrawn from bidding for UK Government contracts because of concerns from the Cabinet Office .  On 3rd March I received two responses to Freedom of Information requests which asked when the Scottish Government first became aware of the UK Government’s concerns with KPMG and the date they actually awarded the contract to the company.

The first response was from the Scottish Government who provided a copy of contract letter, showing it had been awarded on 7th December, but declined to release any information about when and what it knew about the UK Government’s concerns about KPMG because:

“disclosure of information would, or would be likely to, cause substantial harm to the free and frank provision of views and advice. This exemption recognises the need for candid discussion to take place within a private space so that views and advice can be given freely and frankly.

This strongly suggested there had been some communication with the UK Government about their concerns with KPMG.  This was then confirmed by the response from the Cabinet Office to the second FOI request.  They were far more open, admitting they had not formally notified the Scottish Government of concerns but also that “Commercial Directors across the UK Government and representatives of the Scottish Government were notified about Cabinet Office’s engagement with KPMG at a meeting on 25 November 2021.”

The mind boggles!  After free and frank exchange of views with the UK Government – presumably on 25thNovember – it appears Scottish Government officials decided still to award the contract to KPMG, only for Nicola Sturgeon then to announce later in January that KPMG had withdrawn from bidding for Scottish contracts too.  By then it was too late.  KPMG had the NCS contract – which they can use to design a privatised care system that furthers their interests – in the bag.

An insight into how this happened is provided by the organisational chart of the new National Care Service Team at the Scottish Government passed to Common Weal last week. This is marked “official sensitive”.  The staff teams are very unbalanced.  Under legislation, policy and engagement there are 14 civil servants, under finance  – on which all else depends – just one, Fiona Bennet.  At first sight this appears to explain why the Scottish Government decided to outsource the work on the finances of the NCS, they did not have the staff.  

It is of more than passing interest, however, that according to her linked-in profile, before joining the Scottish Government in 2020 and then being appointed head of social care finance in January 2021, Fiona Bennet worked at KPMG for four years.  That fact should be sufficient to prompt a full-scale and independent inquiry into why Scottish Government officials continued with the appointment of KMPG despite the UK Government’s concerns.

The wider issue is that significant parts of government in Scotland have now been captured by the private sector. Paula Speirs, for example, who has since January 2022 been NHS Scotland Deputy Chief Operating Officer and is now on the Board of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is ex KPMG, Capita and EY. 

The award of the NCS contract to KPMG may not have been the directly the fault of Scottish Ministers, but it is their responsibility to sort out the unholy mess.  The solution is clear.  They need to  assume responsibility for designing a National Care Service with local authorities, people with professional expertise and the people of Scotland rather than outsourcing this task to private interests.

3 thoughts on “Scottish Government, KPMG and the National Care Service”

  1. Fed up Indy supporter

    The SNP and the Scottish government have learnt nothing about management of large projects in their time in office. Every one of their initiatives has had poor results Ferguson’s, Prestwick, Abfab, Scotwind to name a few. Their answer is to outsource rather than seek to improve management. The leadership of Scotland has become farcical!

    The issues I have with outsourcing projects of this size are

    1. How is it possible, with any certainty, that the contract price is correct? It is a best guess based on what – the project is to design the national care service, a service that does not currently exist and, of which, the government can only guess at what is required and therefore what it will cost to develop. Like outsourcing of government large IT projects of the past, this is an open cheque book for the contractor.

    2. How much of the £546m will be spent in Scotland? If it were a Scottish government project we could be assured that most would be spent in Scotland thus assisting our economy.

    3. What are on the “design” parameters? Government projects like this that are awarded to the private sector usually end up with a private sector orientated answer. The private sector is always looking for the next lucrative project to keep them going and outsourcing to the private sector

    4. Why is this project not managed in house? KPMG does not have a group of knowledgeable, experienced people sitting around waiting for this contract. KPMG will recruit these people for the project – why could the Scottish government not do the same? At the end of the KPMG design, the people in the project will either move on to their next project taking all, the knowledge and expertise built up and paid for by the Scottish taxpayer with them or will stay with the project on the inflated salaries paid by KPMG funded by the Scottish taxpayer.

    And what does this leadership say for the future of an independent Scotland?

  2. Norman Cunningham

    This is outrageous. Why are the Scottish MSM not all over this? Or at least the so-called voice of the Scottish people – The National!
    As a supporter of Commonweal, I acknowledge that it has a relatively small reach and is unfortunately a cry in the wilderness on many of the important issues it raises. How do we make not only the government more accountable but also the fourth estate?

  3. Ian Davidson

    Scottish Government, political and senior civil servants, operate in an amoral zone which ties in nicely with the KPMG mindset; money flows being seen as a sort of value-free tool of government? The sort of mindset which allows folks like Kate Forbes to hold genuine personal and religious beliefs, take a big salary and benefits, criticise the cruelty of Westminster government, waste millions of public money on failed projects; all simultaneously! The goal (myth) of indy is used to unify the believers and crush the dissenters; after all, “we’ve got five years” from the sleeping electorate?! The Scottish Secret Society are not moral or immoral; they are amoral; they just don’t know how to really care & “truth” is a more fluid entity for them?! The thought of this mob running an indy Scotland (something I have voted for over 40 years) is as comforting as my currently watching ‘re-runs of “The Prisoner” every weekday night. ” Questions are a burden to others”! “Be seeing you!” .

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