McKinsey nets £1.1m in new contracts supporting government's Covid-19 response

Cabinet Office to pay consultants £750,000 to beef up “Covid-19 task force” advising ministers and leading on implementation of coronavirus measures
McKinsey was paid £385,400 to help determine daily testing capacity at NHS labs. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images

McKinsey & Company has landed two more major contracts for key government projects tackling coronavirus, netting upwards of £1.1m for work to support a task force advising ministers on the government’s response to Covid-19 and to help determine NHS testing capacity.

Documents published this week show the Cabinet Office has drafted in the management consultancy to beef up the cross-government “Covid-19 task force”, charged with supporting the prime minister and cabinet in developing coronavirus policies, to the tune of £749,300.

And the Department for Health and Social Care recently paid the firm £385,400 for six weeks' work to help determine daily coronavirus testing capacity.

The two deals come after CSW revealed McKinsey had banked £563,400 for work to inform the “vision, purpose and narrative” of a permanent test and trace body.

The most recent DHSC contract was intended to ascertain the maximum possible capacity for coronavirus testing at NHS labs, provide data on how best to allocate supplies, and determine how many tests could practically be carried out daily in May.

The work, carried out in May and June, also looked at how to improve data on testing supplies and capacity in future.

A separate contract notice revealed McKinsey has been working with the Covid-19 task force, which manages the government’s high-priority plans for the response to and recovery from coronavirus, since it was set up in May. The task force provides evidence to support policymaking and leads on the implementation of Covid-19 measures.

The latest deal covers seven more months of consultancy up to the end of the financial year. CSW understands McKinsey's work on the Covid-19 task force between May and August was carried out under a separate contract.

The task force coordinates policy work across departments, oversees implementation of policy measures and develops longer-term strategy on Covid-19. It is also overseeing the “cross-Whitehall handling of setpiece moments and milestones” throughout the pandemic, according to documents published yesterday.

McKinsey consultants will be embedded in the task force analysis unit, a 20-strong team of civil servants that provides and analyses data to track the virus and “advise on the policy options to suppress it at the least socioeconomic cost”.

“This includes providing analysis, data and modelling of all health, economic and social impacts of Covid-19 and the resulting policies,” a document outlining the requirements of the contract, which runs from 10 August to 31 March, says. 

“This requires specialist resources to support the scoping of projects, hands-on support for planning, and analysis of portfolio data, some of which either cannot be found within [the government] or is in short supply."

The document adds: “This procurement seeks to ensure that the task force retains sufficient skills and capacity to meet its objectives in these areas, and also, in recognition of the lack of certainty about future scenarios for Covid-19, to ensure that it retains the capability to target resources flexibly at issues as they arise.”

McKinsey will provide consultants to work on specific tasks or projects on an “agile and flexible” basis. The Cabinet Office expects between two and 10 consultants to be working with the unit in each case for several weeks at a time.

They could be asked to develop frameworks to analyse the impacts of policy measures; work with civil servants to develop Covid-19 monitoring and surveillance metrics; and analyse the international response to coronavirus.

They may also be asked to advise on forecasting and statistical models; carry out research into novel data sets, modelling and presentation of results; and present evidence to civil servants and ministers.

And they may be called upon to run workshops to gather input from academics or experts elsewhere in Whitehall.

The document shows McKinsey has been working with the unit for three months before this contract began. Between four and eight consultants, as well as members of the data team in the Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Unit, have been working to support the unit’s development since 4 May.

“It is expected that we would continue at this level, with the amount and skillsets of the resource flexing to meet the demands of the taskforce’s work,” the document says.

The deal specifies that consultants hired to work with the unit must have strong analytical skills, particularly in economics, health and virology, data analysis and multicriteria strategic analysis. They must also have security clearance.

The consultants will work mostly from home, using Cabinet Office IT infrastructure, but will be expected to attend meetings in central London where required.

McKinsey is one of several consulting firms to have been contracted to work on coronavirus-focused projects including the test and trace system, provision of PPE and communications monitoring during the pandemic.

CSW reported in June that the Cabinet Office had repurposed several Brexit consultancy contracts to commission companies’ help on projects to tackle the outbreak and had set up “clearing hubs” for departments to bid for support.

McKinsey was one of at least 17 consulting firms to receive letters in March and April updating their contracts so that they could be used for coronavirus-focused projects.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “As part of an unprecedented response to this global pandemic we have drawn on consultancy support from a number of private sector partners. This could cover areas such as research, insight and bespoke modelling and data analysis, where the consultant has the relevant expertise and offers value for money.

“This is in line with procurement regulations for exceptional circumstances, where being able to procure at speed has been critical in the national response to Covid-19."

A DHSC spokesperson declined to comment.

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