The provincial auditor's December 2014 report broadly stated consulting expenses had grown to $120 million. Our task was to seek out the details of these contracts. After an exhaustive search of multiple sources, the Consultant Watch team successfully identified consulting companies and individuals conducting $117.7 million worth of business with the province in the year 2013-2014.
We compared this to the previous year, 2012-2013 ($113.9 million). We then did the same search all over again for two historical comparison years, selecting 2008-2009, the first full year of a Sask Party government ($40.5 million), and 2005-2006, the last full year of an NDP government ($27.6 million).
Every effort was made to identify what companies actually did before placing them on the consultancy list. Where the class was unsure, companies were flagged for follow-up.
"Throughout the investigation process, students were able to eliminate certain flagged consultants. These consulting businesses provided clear, obvious and credible information about the services they provided," wrote student Paige Kreutzweizer in her summary report.
"Others did not."
Students also looked at the context of rising consultancy, including the fact that Central Services took over the expense-heavy Information Technology Office, formerly in the ministry of economy. However, with the ITO showing lower expenses in the past, other factors come into consideration, in particular the government's staff reduction plans.
The province's turn to consultants marks an ongoing shift from long-term staff to short-term external help. The argument is, you save more in the long run by contracting out. In the last provincial budget, it was stated 1,900 staff positions have been eliminated since 2010.
Similar to what other researchers have found, the Consultant Watch team did not have sufficient information that could quantify the dollar value of the staff reductions. Further obscuring the matter, it appeared there was a certain level of individual back-and-forth migration between staff positions and consultancies.
As it stands, Consultant Watch can only report on what we identified as cost spending on consultants. We must leave it up to the government to identify the cost savings.
"What the students have done is open the door for even deeper investigation on where the government is spending its money," said Kreutzwiser.
In this spirit, data spreadsheets, web links and summaries are provided for each ministry on this site, in the hope that researchers, journalists and members of the public can use them as starting points in their investigations.
Data from all ministries combined (Excel file)