(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media)

As Australia endures one of the slowest vaccine rollouts in the world, blue-chip consulting firm McKinsey’s good fortune continues to grow.

The company has now doubled its lucrative contract with the Department of Health, up $1.4 million to $3 million, for an additional month’s worth of advice. The current contract is set to run until April 30.

And it’s not just the health department that is desperately seeking McKinsey’s advice on all things vaccine.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has also handed it a lucrative $2.4 million contract to advise on “maximising economic and social opportunities” as the vaccine rollout progresses. That contract runs for 12 weeks.

‘Policy advice’

McKinsey was forced to pay nearly US$600 million in February to settle investigations into its role in helping “turbocharge” opioid sales in the US. It is also in the firing line over its role in the botched vaccine rollout in France, making questions about its work here even more pertinent — particularly with the PM&C now seeking its advice.

And while departments regularly outsource work to the private sector, it’s unclear why the PM&C would be hiring McKinsey for work on the rollout, given most of that work has been done through the Department of Health.

Details of the contract are muddy. According to the AFR, McKinsey will “provide research and analysis, project management, strategic policy advice and communications products” to the department. The department declined to elaborate any further to Crikey, saying it had contracted McKinsey to provide short-term support for a major government priority.

“PM&C’s role has always been to work closely with agencies across the Australian public service to coordinate advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet,” it said.

Multinational consulting firms are making millions from Australia’s botched vaccine rollout but the details of their work have been shrouded in secrecy thanks to a long-standing tradition of outsourcing work to the private sector. But the critical nature of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, now described as an “unmitigated disaster” by some experts, has put their role in the spotlight.

PwC, which in December was declared by Health Minister Greg Hunt as Australia’s “lead partner” in the rollout, will not even confirm whether it is still involved in the rollout. The consulting firm has refused to give any details about its work, saying it doesn’t comment on “client matters”. The health department has also refused to clarify whether PwC is still involved in the rollout.

A spokesperson for McKinsey Australia said the company was unable to comment specifically on its engagement with PM&C and directed questions to the department’s media team. The spokesperson also declined to comment on why the contract with the Department of Health was extended for another month.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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