A conflagration of consultants
City Hall Watcher #181: Spending on consultants keeps going up under Mayor John Tory — a look at who's making the most cash from City Hall
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This week: the long-anticipated sequel to City Hall Watcher #90. That’s right — I’ve heard your cries for more consultant content and I am finally prepared to deliver.
Today we’ll find out if City Hall has bucked the previous trend that was seeing rapid escalations of spending on external consultants. (Spoiler: Nope.) I’ll also take a look at the biggest consultant contracts issued last year. And, for fun, give you a chart of the 20 most successful City Hall consulting firms.
Here’s a teaser: two firms combined in 2021 to take almost 20% of City Hall’s total consultant spending. See if you can guess.
As always, if you like City Hall Watcher, tell a pal.
— Matt Elliott
Consultant spending at City Hall continues to rise under Mayor John Tory
In the fall of 2020, I looked at a report on City Hall spending on external consultants. I noted consultant spending had grown significantly since Mayor John Tory took office in 2014. I wondered if the trend would continue.
It sure has.
A report from City Hall Controller Andrew Flynn heading to the next meeting of the General Government & Licensing Committee documents continued increases in spending on consultants in the years 2020 and 2021. Last year, the City spent a whopping $45 million on consultants. That’s up about $20 million from consulting spending at the end of the last term of Council and up more than triple from a decade ago.
The increase on the operating budget side is especially notable. Spending on consultants from the operating budget was about $3.5 million when Tory took office in 2014. In 2019, before the pandemic, it had grown to $13.5 million — a nearly fourfold increase. It was relatively steady in 2020 at $13.7 million. But then, last year, it jumped again to $18.6 million — a $4.9 million increase in a single year.
Some of that is pandemic-related spending, but not all of it. Contracts with descriptions that mention COVID and/or the pandemic account for about $1.4 million of the operating budget consulting contracts issued last year.
Spending big on consultants has become one of the hallmarks of Tory’s City Hall — something that differentiates him from his predecessor. Here’s a comparison of the average combined — capital and operating — spending on consultants per year over the last three mayoral terms.
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