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9 December 2011 | Adam Leach
A legacy of indecision, insufficient accountability and treating it as an easy cost cutting target has resulted in the procurement of armoured vehicles failing to deliver after 13 years and £1.1 billion of taxpayers money being spent.
In a report published today by the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) censured the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for failing to deliver on “principle armoured vehicles” procurement programmes, such as the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle and the 3,700 vehicles included in the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES). In particular, it highlighted the £321 million wasted by cancelling or suspending projects.
But, in response to the report, the MoD disputed the claims, saying the £1.1. billion included the delivery of 66 Titan and Trojan armoured vehicles, and over 100 Viking all terrain vehicles at a cost of £407 million. However, the procurements for these were launched before 1998, with the Committee assessing procurement by the department from 1998 to 2011.
The report blamed the department for “indecisive and over-ambitious” over-specifications, failing to keep senior responsible owners in place long enough to be truly held accountable, and cutting the budget for armoured vehicles as a result of lower levels of contractual commitments instead of on operational grounds. The report said: “The department needs to be clearer about its priorities, and stop raiding the armoured vehicles chest every time it needs to make savings across the defence budget.”
Commenting on the findings, chairwoman of the committee Labour MP Margaret Hodge, said: “The MoD seems as far away as ever from establishing a clear set of affordable defence priorities. The problem for the armoured vehicle programme is that the department has yet to say how it is going to find the money to buy the vehicles it needs in future to carry out the full range of military tasks.”
On the department’s failure to utilise senior responsible owners, she said: “It was no surprise to the committee that the accounting officer of the department could not name who was responsible for this serious failure of procurement or whether anyone had paid the penalty.”
The MPs called on the MoD to “urgently complete” work and planning to enable it to balance its budget under the Strategic Defence & Security Review. As part of this the department must establish which armoured vehicles are fit for continued use and how many it more it must procure.
In a statement, minister for defence equipment, support and technology Peter Luff said: “The armoured vehicle programme was left in a mess by the previous Government. We are now sorting out their unrealistic and unaffordable plans by balancing the budget, investing real money in equipment and reforming outdated procurement practices.”