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In 5 years, 16 ministries gave Rs 500 crore work to Big Five consultants

From petroleum to power and from NITI Aayog to India’s own Aadhaar project, 16 ministries/ departments in the Central Government outsourced several key assignments covering many facets of governance to top multinational consultancy firms, mainly the ‘Big Four’ plus McKinsey & Co, an investigation by The Indian Express of records made available under the Right To Information (RTI) Act has found.

The records show that between April 2017 and June 2022, the Big Four — Pricewater-houseCoopers (PwC), Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, Ernst & Young Global Limited and KPMG International Limited — and US-based McKinsey & Company, bagged at least 308 consultancy assignments worth nearly Rs 500 crore from various government ministries, departments and organisations.

These projects involved a sweeping range of activities for the government, including “financial due diligence”, “retainer for advisory service”, “hiring technical consultants” — and even “evaluation of nominations for e-governance awards”, the records show.

The 16 departments/ ministries and about 50 organisations under their administration that consulted any of the five global consultants are: Petroleum and Natural Gas; Rural Development; Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances; Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade; Coal; Electronics and Information Technology; Health and Family Welfare; Skill Development and Entrepreneurship; Defence; Civil Aviation; Public Enterprises; Non-conventional Energy Resources; Power; Road Transport and Highways; Environment, Forest and Climate Change; and Tourism. There are 59 ministries in the Central government.

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And these are just a few pixels of the big picture — RTI records made available to The Indian Express are mainly from government wings in the petroleum and power sectors.

Festive offer

The records show that PwC was the biggest beneficiary, corralling at least 92 contracts for over Rs 156 crore between 2017 and 2022 (see chart). Deloitte came close behind with 59 assignments worth well over Rs 130.13 crore — the amounts involved in four of those contracts were not provided.

In 5 years, 16 ministries gave Rs 500 cr work to Big Five consultants

E&Y bagged as many as 87 contracts for Rs 88.05 crore, with amounts not provided for five of them. KPMG got 66 contracts worth Rs 68.46 crore, without any data provided on amounts for five of them. And McKinsey got three contracts for Rs 50.09 crore.

According to the RTI records, made available for the period April 2017-June 2022 by Union ministries and associated organisations, the petroleum sector topped the list with assignments worth over Rs 170 crore from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and just four of its PSUs. State-owned Indian Oil Corporation declined to provide the data citing the “trade secret” clause of the RTI Act.

The power sector came next with records showing that nine organisations under the Ministry outsourced assignments worth Rs 166.41 crore to multinational consultancies.

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The list also includes the Ministry of Tourism and NITI Aayog. The Tourism Ministry gave work totalling at least Rs 18 crore to E&Y alone under its Swadesh Darshan initiative. And the NITI Aayog outsourced seven assignments worth Rs 17.43 crore during 2019-2021 for “evaluation of centrally sponsored schemes”.

Some of the other projects included an assignment to evaluate “nominations for awards for e-governance” given to KPMG by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG). The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) in Mussoorie, the training institute for IAS officers, awarded a consultancy assignment to KPMG in August 2020 for works such as “revalidation of Enterprise Architecture.”

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The Indian Express had filed over 60 RTI applications to various ministries and departments seeking the data in early 2020, and again in April 2022, besides at least a dozen first appeals and reminders. Some of the departments responded by stating that they had “nil” information, a few others denied the request claiming it was exempt from the Act, and others did not respond.

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