Friday, 19 February 2010

Consultant or supplier?

The following are sometimes distinguishable but their activities overlap:
  • supplier
  • consultant
  • contractor
A consultant provides advice and expertise without being responsible for delivery.

For the National Audit Office, consulting is a project based activity where the responsibility for the final outcome rests with the client, and if the responsibility for the final outcome rests with the supplier then it's outsourcing. But doesn't the responsibility for a public sector project still rest with the public sector client? Even if legally it's the supplier's responsibility, isn't it the public-sector that procured the wrong supplier, handed over the wrong requirements, didn't check progress, didn't talk about the requirements as they were being prepared, didn't engage with the process, didn't engage in a relationship with the supplier? Isn't there a moral responsibility on the part of the public-sector client? Isn't that why the media draw attention to failed projects, because there's an accountability demanded of the public sector, but if the public sector can blame someone else, it's absolved of its accountability?

And in that sense the supplier is no more than a consultant in the end, just takes more flack.

NAO (2006) Central government's use of consultants. IN OFFICE, N. A. (Ed.). HMSO.

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