The Test and Trace system is forking out almost £1million a day to just one consultancy firm, it has emerged.
The Government is paying an average of £1,000 a day to each consultant working on the programme. Deloitte has 900 employees working for the service.
David Williams, joint permanent secretary of the Department of Health and Social Care, revealed the shocking figures during a Commons public accounts committee meeting yesterday.
Asked about government reliance on private sector staff – and specifically how many Deloitte employees work for Test and Trace – he said it was down to roughly 900 from more than 1,000 in October.
‘We’re going to see that number reduced markedly over the course of the next few months,’ he said.
Pushed on the cost of individual consultants, Mr Williams said: ‘The average cost across our consultancy support, and I imagine it’s about the same for Deloitte, is around £1,000 a day.’
He defended the amount, saying he was ‘confident’ firms were not profiteering from the pandemic.
He said the system could not have expanded quickly without consultants’ help, and many firms had reduced their normal public sector rates during the crisis.
He refused to ‘get into the specific detail of individual contracts’ when asked about reports some consultants were earning up to £7,000 a day.
But the Daily Mail can reveal that almost 3,000 consultants and contractors, many on gold-plated deals worth thousands of pounds a day, have been hired at a cost of at least £375million.
Baroness Dido Harding, chairman of the programme, defended the ‘appropriate’
use of the private sector in ‘extreme emergency circumstances’.
‘They’ve done very important work alongside the public servants, the military, the healthcare professionals and members of the private sector who have come and joined us as well,’ she told the committee.
‘We couldn’t have built the service without all of that combined expertise.’
She said 7.5million people were tested in the first fortnight of 2021 and that in the last week of published data, the first week of January, contact tracers successfully reached a million people.
She said: ‘That translates to 198 people a minute successfully contact-traced during every minute of the working day, seven days a week.’
Baroness Harding said the programme was having a ‘material impact’ and is lowering the R number by between 0.3 and 0.6 and, in high Covid prevalence areas, by between 0.5 and 0.8.
Figures obtained by this newspaper reveal there are 2,959 consultants and contractors working for the Test and Trace system.
The £375million wage bill, which vastly exceeds previous estimates, is equivalent to £163,000 per consultant, even though many are engaged for only short periods.
And analysis by the Mail shows how the system struggled as cases surged before Christmas, leaving thousands waiting longer than the 24 hours for test results pledged by Boris Johnson.
In the week ending December 23, only 17.5 per cent of people received a result within a day.
More than 12 per cent of the one million who took in-person tests that week waited more than 72 hours for a result.
Although the number receiving results within a day has crept up over the past three weeks, the rates are still far below official targets.
Government sources said the dip in turnaround times over Christmas was due to ‘unprecedented demand’ but that additional staff and resources were now being used.
It comes amid claims contact tracers are expected to carry out clinical work without qualifications.
A former businessman said he was hired as a tracer via Adecco for Serco in May.
He said: ‘I’ve been faced with situations I’m just not qualified to cope with. I’ve had somebody who is suicidal, somebody who has cancer… people asking when to call an ambulance if their breathing gets bad. I can’t field those questions.’