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Multinational consulting firms are making millions from a vaccine rollout experts are calling an unmitigated disaster. But we have no idea what advice they’re giving.

Crikey asked PwC, McKinsey and the health department about the work that consultants were doing on the vaccine rollout, and whether they bore any responsibility for its slow progress.

Both McKinsey and PwC declined to comment last week. Health got back to us at 4.49pm on the eve of the Easter long weekend.

The department insisted it was not behind on the rollout and refused to provide a list of the private consultants involved in the vaccine rollout.

It said the government was spending $600 million to support vaccine delivery as part of its $6 billion COVID-19 response. But it would not say how much of this was going to private consulting firms, and would not reveal the value of contracts with private consultants, saying they were “commercial in confidence”.

The department also insisted the vaccine rollout has not been outsourced, saying it has procured services to “inform and support” the rollout through the provision of “expert knowledge and skills”. It said it had engaged a “dedicated partner” to provide probity and risk management support, but would not name the partner.

Questions unanswered

McKinsey is the latest firm to be hired — for around $57,000 a day — to advise the government on the latest phase of the botched rollout. It comes at a time when McKinsey is under fire in France for receiving millions in government contracts to advise the French government over its own botched vaccine rollout.

A spokesperson for McKinsey’s Australia operations last week declined to comment on the work the organisation was doing in the vaccine rollout. It did not respond to questions about whether its involvement in the French vaccine rollout, criticised for being too slow, had informed its advice on the rollout here.

PwC were even less forthcoming with details about its contract with the health department, saying simply: “We don’t comment on client matters.”

As delays continue to plague the rollout, here are some of the things we still don’t know about the role of the consultants:

  • What do they actually do? We’ve been told PwC’s role is “delivery partner” and Accenture is in charge of data (something), but little beyond that.
  • What is the scope of their work?
  • Why did the government sign a new contract with McKinsey in February?
  • Is PwC still a delivery partner for the vaccine rollout, and if so, why was McKinsey hired?
  • What does delivery partner mean and how much is the contract with PwC worth?
  • Are the consultants responsible for the delayed rollout?
  • What requirements (if any) do the consultants need to meet as part of their government contracts?
  • On what basis were PwC and McKinsey chosen for the roles?
  • Who is the “dedicated partner” overseeing the work of consultants to make sure they are accountable to the taxpayer?