Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Indefensible

The Bloke on defence spending

Today's PAC report on defence procurement reminds us just how poor the MOD is at managing its budgets. As we've blogged before, its 20 largest weapons projects - including the MRA4 Nimrod, the Type 45 destroyer, and the Astute class sub - are running a combined £2.6bn over budget, and 36 years behind schedule.

But the report also highlights something else we've spotted- the MOD's appalling and hamfisted attempt to cover up.

They claimed that through careful husbandry they had cut the cost of these 20 projects by a combined £781m. But it later emerged that most of those "savings" actually comprised accounting fudges that shifted costs out of the heavily scrutinised 2o major projects category into the big black pot of other spending.

The PAC says only £242m comprised real savings, and Sir Edward commented:

"More than half of the sum which the MoD has claimed to save has simply been loaded on to other budgets. We have no idea what cuts will have to be made to other activities of our Armed Forces as a result of this massaging of the figures."

At a time when British troops are dying for want of proper kit not included in those 20 major projects, that is utterly indefensible.

In the private sector, heads would roll. But government never works like that. As the PAC observes:

"Key staff are neither held to account for a project's failure, nor rewarded for its success."
Once again those mighty Whitehall warriors get off scot free.

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