Former Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry staff members are being awarded lucrative contracts as the ministry sheds current staff.
The ministry spent $8.4 million on external consultants and contractors in the 2011-12 financial year. That was $1m higher than 2010-11 and $1.5m more than forecast.
As well as major companies, such as accountants KPMG and economists NZIER, a number of former ministry staff members were given uncontested contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars.
The outlay comes during tough times for the public service, particularly foreign affairs.
In May, chief executive John Allen announced the final details of the ministry's change programme, in which an embassy will close and jobs will be outsourced or cut.
Almost 80 positions will be lost.
In the last year former ambassador Don MacKay was paid $87,530 to prepare for, and chair, a series of United Nations meetings.
Mr MacKay was New Zealand's representative to the United Nations in New York, and later Geneva, ambassador to Fiji in the early 1990s and New Zealand's disarmament ambassador.
None of his contracts were put out to tender because his "specialist expertise [was] required".
Former policy boss Trevor Hughes was paid $60,000 to contribute to a report on Antarctica and former diplomat Tim Caughley was paid $31,165 for providing advice on a range of disarmament issues. Tenders were not sought in either case.
The former head of MFAT's legal division, Bill Mansfield, was awarded $60,000 to provide international legal advice including on South Pacific fisheries and nuclear fuels transportation. He has been paid $44,377 of the ongoing contract, which was not tendered.
Green Party foreign affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham said those being awarded contracts were no doubt talented and experienced. But that did not mean no-one else could provide the same service.
"In most of those cases, I think I could find another New Zealander who would have comparable expertise and experience, not necessarily inside MFAT now or in the past."
The bar for tendering work was far too low, he said. "It is not logical to assert that, in the ministry's view, someone is best for the job if they haven't gone out to tender. How can they possibly know?"
The changes inside MFAT "up the ante", but the issue was a long-term one of transparency, Dr Graham said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said former ministry staff were only engaged when specialist expertise was required. They were contracted for limited time periods.
"When engaging highly specialised skills that are not available in the market place, a competitive tender is not always required in line with standard public sector practice."
The increased total amount spent on consultants and contractors was due to the change programme not being included in the original budget, Mr McCully said.
He said the changes would eventually lead to savings of $24m a year.
In the past four years, 16 former employees of the ministry have been contracted back.
It already plans to hire four former staff members in the coming year. A spokeswoman said further announcements on "third tier" positions would be made next week.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Can inner city residents reasonably expect a bit of peace and quiet?Related story: Quest for quieter city life 'frustrating'