THE Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has paid consultancy firms $380 million for investigation, design and monitoring work over the past three years, according to the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, Mr Tony Eason. In a written reply to a question from Mr Gilbert Leung Kam-ho, Mr Eason said 40 consultancies had been awarded directly by the EPD in the past three years. Of the $380 million, $266 million went on fees and the remainder on investigations. The EPD had considered the availability of resources and expertise within the department to undertake a particular project when determining whether consultants should be employed, he said. It was impossible to compare the cost of these consultancies with the expenditure that would have been incurred had the projects been undertaken by EPD staff. More staff would have been required and, with limits on the extra staff that could be provided, delays would have occurred, he said.