02 August 2017
The Secretariat has strengthened consultant management processes at the Global Fund, particularly over the past 18 months. Consultant numbers and costs have almost halved; processes and compliance have improved. However, the OIG audit also highlighted a few areas that need attention including planning processes, analysis of resourcing options, and clearer definitions of roles and responsibilities.
Consulting costs for the Global Fund in 2015-16 were US$76.6 million, constituting approximately 13% of total operational expenses. The staff-to-consultant ratio decreased from 42% in 2015 to 20% in 2016. The Global Fund defines all types of externally engaged services as consultants. These services can include management, strategy or operational consulting, outsourcing of various tasks, or contracting of other services.
The Secretariat put in place better planning and tighter budgetary controls in 2016, all of which contributed towards a reduction of total consultant costs, from 35% of the total staff cost of the Global Fund in 2015 to 19% in 2016. The Secretariat also revised its procurement processes several times to strengthen controls on ‘exceptions to competition’, approval thresholds, conflicts of interest declarations, and compliance monitoring and reporting. For this audit, the Secretariat volunteered to objectively self-identify various gaps in consultant management, and to incorporate necessary improvements in initiatives that are currently ongoing. Additional risks identified through this audit are also being incorporated in the scope of these initiatives. This self-identification of issues and the Secretariat’s proactive approach to addressing them demonstrate a good level of control awareness on the part of management.
There is a need for more comprehensive workforce planning. The use of consultants has evolved organically at the Global Fund, rather than being consciously determined by exploring all resource options, related costs, benefits and risks.
The organization has not analyzed the pros and cons of engaging long-term individual consultants versus full-time staff. Approximately 60% of the individual consultants are contracted for over one year. In some cases, long-term consultants were used after staff positions were denied due to an upper limit on staff costs.
Financial and other implications of long-term consulting need to be fully evaluated by the Global Fund as part of the decision-making process. Staffing versus consulting options, as well as the length of consulting engagements, need to be explored in more detail. Considerations should include legal, reputational and motivational risks, dependency and knowledge management risks. Potential advantages such as increased operational flexibility, quicker access to trained resources, and a generally lower administrative burden, should also be considered to arrive at the correct workforce mix.
Finally, the OIG found that roles and responsibilities need to be clarified. As the consultant planning and management cycle involves several different business units: business/operational, recruitment/sourcing, financial budgeting and control, human resource management and legal, there is a risk that accountability could become blurred.
As part of its ongoing improvement initiatives, the Secretariat plans to incorporate detailed guidance on the use of consultants; define roles and responsibilities for key aspects of consultant management; and enhance controls on contractual compliance, reference checking and performance tracking. The Secretariat will also analyze costs, benefits and risks for existing long-term consultants and weigh them, against staffing options, to determine the way forward.
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The Office of the Inspector General safeguards the assets, investments, reputation and sustainability of the Global Fund by ensuring that it takes the right action to defeat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Through audits, investigations and consultancy work, it promotes good practice, reduces risk and reports fully and transparently on abuse.
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