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£2million of taxpayers’ money on consultants to pay out DCMS charities fund

9 June 2021

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) acted quickly to pay out most of its £513 million COVID-19 financial support package for frontline charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises, allowing many to continue to provide vital services to some of the most vulnerable in society, and reduce pressure on services elsewhere.

But in its report published today, the Commons Public Accounts says there has been “a notable opaqueness over some aspects” of DCMS decision making, and it is “unclear what influence special advisers had over some funding decisions, with some charities awarded government funding despite the Department’s officials initially scoring their bids in the lowest scoring category, including four out of the five lowest scoring applications.”

The Committee says it is also unclear why some charitable organisations succeeded in securing funding: three in instances where officials were unsure if organisations were actually “eligible for government funding in the first place”. 

DCMS has also “failed to provide a clear rationale for spending up to £2 million of taxpayers’ money on consultants to assist with the assessment of bids, when established processes were already in place to do this”. The Department “has no information on where in the country 18% of the funds awarded are actually being used, equivalent to £101 million of taxpayer’s money and 2,882 funding awards.”  

By primarily focussing on distributing funding quickly, DCMS hasn’t developed a way to measure the impact this ‘taxpayers’ investment’ has had across the country, or the longer- term impact on the sector. While it is clear the fund was not intended to support or save every charitable organisation, the Committee “remains concerned about the long-term financial health and resilience of the sector as the pandemic continues.” DCMS should monitor that situation and update the Committee on what further action it will take. 

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee said:

“The PAC has seen these twin themes recur throughout the policy response to Covid, especially when it comes to disbursing funds. One is a worrying smoke thrown up around award decisions, with growing instances of the official processes overridden without adequate explanation.

The other is the focus on inputs not outcomes, on getting money spent – including exorbitant amounts on consultants - without factoring or measuring the impact. I fear one clear impact is the steady erosion of taxpayers’ trust that their money is being well spent in this national emergency."

Further information

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