The Saskatchewan government is being criticized for spending millions on health care consultants for its "lean" program — including $3,500 a day for "Japanese sensei."

Premier Brad Wall confirmed in the legislature that consultants helping the Health Ministry will cost $40 million over four years, but he insists the investment will easily pay for itself.

The idea behind "lean" is to apply efficiency procedures to health care to make it more effective for patients and save money.

"We're going to continue with lean," Wall said. "We'll make this investment because it is providing better care and it is saving more money than the consultants will cost."

Wall wasn't asked in the legislature about the sensei, but NDP leader Cam Broten raised concerns later in the day.

Sensei /senˈsei/
noun (pl. same) (in martial arts) a teacher. 

Sensei might be a term familiar to fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it's is also a common expression in the consultancy world, pertaining to experts in various fields who train others.

Still, Broten said, it still a little hard to believe the government is spending as much money as it is on out-of-province consultants, including sensei. He said $3.6 million has been spent on travel costs for the U.S. consultants John Black and Associates.

'This to me breaks the Saskatchewan principle of using common sense.' - Cam Broten, NDP leader

"You know, we are actually flying Japanese senseis from Japan to come to Saskatchewan to do cultural training and other aspects," he said. "This to me breaks the Saskatchewan principle of using common sense."

Officials with Wall's office confirmed that Japanese sensei are being paid to come to Saskatchewan for lean-related sessions. They will train Saskatchewan people who will apply what they've learned here.

Each sensei will get $2,000 per flight, plus a consultancy fee of $3,500 a day. Four five-day seminars are scheduled to be held in 2014-15. The government said this will require eight trips.

Broten said if the idea is to encourage teamwork, it's something health care workers here are already familiar with.

"I saw one tweet from a senior person in the Saskatoon health region that said the sensei was there and they talked about teamwork and participation or something like that," he said.

"Well, I think if you asked any member of a health care team working they would say teamwork has sort of been a principle there all the time and yes, we should look for ways to find efficiencies, but this has gone over the top."

Broten added that 800 more care aids could be funded with the $40 million the government is spending on lean consultants.

with files from Stefani Langenegger