Politics

MOD wastes billions and 'continually fails to learn from mistakes', spending watchdog says

The Public Accounts Committee has published a highly critical report into the Ministry of Defence's "broken" procurement system.

Billions of pounds of taxpayers' money have been wasted as the Ministry of Defence (MOD) continually fails to learn from its mistakes, the Commons spending watchdog has said.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the MOD's system for procuring military equipment is "broken".

The highly critical report, published on Wednesday, said the cross-party group was "extremely disappointed and frustrated by the continued poor track record".

Speaking to Forces News, Conservative MP Mark Francois said: "The whole equipment plan is about £190bn over 10 years, and of all 36 of them, none are on time or on cost.

"This is literally scandalous."

The MPs have called for the Treasury and Cabinet Office to review the MOD's model for delivering equipment.

The PAC said: "The department's system for delivering major equipment capabilities is broken and is repeatedly wasting taxpayers' money."

It warned that the department "continually fails to learn from its mistakes", having "overseen many expensive failures".

They urged greater openness earlier in the procurement process, to avoid further "catastrophes" like the £5.5bn Ajax armoured fighting vehicle programme that has been beset by problems.

The MPs said they were not convinced that during evidence to the committee that the MOD is "sufficiently serious" or it can quickly deliver the "radical step-change in performance" that is necessary.

They also said witnesses did not assure them they will "not simply throw good money after bad", raising concerns the department was unclear about what additional capability the taxpayer will get from the extra £16.5bn from last year's spending review.

And the committee said it was "deeply concerned about departmental witnesses' inability or unwillingness to answer basic questions".

Watch: Timeline of the Ajax programme so far.

PAC chair Dame Meg Hillier said: "Despite years of official inquiries and recommendations and promises of learning and change, we have still heard nothing from the MOD to give any assurance about our biggest concern, which is now that last year's lauded and substantial uplift to the department's budget will not simply be used to plug financial holes across its programmes.

"It seems no matter who we ask across the ministry, whatever their particular responsibilities, they all point to this same additional funding as a solution to their problems.

"MOD senior management appears to have made the calculation that, at the cost of a few uncomfortable hours in front of a select committee, they can get away with leaving one of the largest financial holes in any Government departments' budget, not just for now, but year after year.

"This committee is determined that this state of affairs cannot, and will not, continue."

An MOD spokesperson said: "This report reflects the complex challenges of delivering defence capability for our Armed Forces, but also the commitment and professionalism required to keep our people and the UK’s interests safe, by purchasing world-class equipment such as Lightning II stealth fighter jets, and the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers.

"We will publish an Equipment Plan 2021-2031 which will detail our plans over the next 10 years in response to the outcome of the £24bn spending settlement, and the Integrated Review Command Paper of March 2021."