This week, UK paper the Guardian uncovered evidence of global consultancy firm McKinsey profiting from the shake-up to the NHS. At the same time, McKinsey was paid £250,000 a year by the UK government for advice on the transition towards health secretary Andrew Lansley's vision for the service.
McKinsey's refusal to address public concerns about potential conflicts of interest and value for money when operating in the public policy arena is not new. Moreover, the NHS is not the only life-support system that it is involved in dismantling.
This year, we at Greenpeace completed an in-depth investigation into McKinsey's work on forests for the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guyana, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The work was paid for by donors like the UK government and did not represent value for money.
McKinsey's advice was supposed to show forest countries how to reduce their emissions from deforestation as part of global efforts to tackle climate change. However, its advice, if followed, would lead to increased deforestation and carbon emissions and would only benefit foreign extractive industries and not people in some of the poorest nations in the world – the opposite of what was intended. This poor-quality advice was based on oversimplified and misleading McKinsey trade-marked modelling.
McKinsey claims that the data used in its model needs to be kept secret due to commercial confidentiality, meaning that the rational behind public policy decisions is opaque and not open to scrutiny and value for money tests. Even Benoît Bosquet, co-ordinator of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) at the World Bank, one of the main bodies responsible for administrating the money earmarked for forest protection, has admitted concerns over McKinsey's secrecy.
McKinsey has consultancy divisions for the mining and pulp and paper and forest products' sectors, the same sectors that benefit from McKinsey's advice on forests. At the same time it refuses to answer questions about potential conflicts of interest.
McKinsey's failure to put the record straight on these issues is not just felt in the city of its global headquarters, New York: it reverberates around the world. What starts as a rumble in the capital cities of the developed economies, crashes down and destroys all in its path in some of the poorest counties in the world.
McKinsey's influence is still the dominant one on the plans of rainforest countries in the weeks leading to the Durban climate change conference, due to start this month. Decisions will be made there that are fundamental to whether our money will go towards solutions that benefit forests, climate and people or those tainted by McKinsey's bad influence.
First published on the Guardian's Comment is Free
Image: Advice from consultancy firm McKinsey will lead to more deforestation, not less as it claims. Copyright: FB Anggaro/Greenpeace