British Ministry of Defense Loses Billions in Military Equipment
The Ministry of Defence cannot account for more than £6 billion of taxpayer-funded spending and its accounts are so chaotic they cannot be signed off by auditors, a report by MPs warns today.
Defence chiefs have lost track of billions of pounds worth of military equipment, including more than 5,000 high-tech radios.
The House of Commons defence committee, described the situation as "alarming" and indicated that the situation risked undermining calls from the military for more Government money.
James Arbuthnot, the Conservative chairman of the Defence Committee, said: "The MoD's inability to manage existing resources makes it harder for them to request additional funding. It is also worrying that the work carried out so far to address previously-raised concerns has simply revealed how big these problems are."
The committee added that it was "dismayed" that the National Audit Office had qualified the MoD's accounts for the fourth year in succession after it lost track of assets worth £6.3 billion - including £184 million-worth of radios.
It said the MoD must speed up its plans for sorting out the problems with its stock control system - currently expected to continue for another two to four years.
"It is alarming that the department should be unaware of the location, usability or indeed the continued existence of assets to a total value of £6.3 billion," the Committee's report said.
"We recommend that the department take whatever measures are necessary to expedite the process of ensuring that it knows how much stock it has, where it is and in what condition.
"We expect to see an abbreviated timetable for achieving this, and an explanation of the measures taken to achieve it, in the response to this report."
The loss of 5,961 Bowman radios was highlighted as an area of concern.
"There are security as well as financial implications associated with losing equipment such as radios, having an effective audit trail is the only way to ensure that all radios are accounted for," the Committee concluded
The report also criticises the Ministry of Defence for failing to know how many reserve members of the armed forces are currently available. The Committee said that this situation was "not acceptable".
The MoD is widely regarded across Whitehall as one of the most dysfunctional departments when the Coalition took over and claimed it had found widespread financial irregularities. Last month, The Daily Telegraph disclosed that a multi-billion pound blackhole had been found in the department's finances. The Government has delayed a new military procurement white paper which is now not expected to be unveiled until later in the year.
David Cameron is facing growing calls to re-open the strategic defence review – which took place last year before British forces were called into action in Libya.
The Defence Committee is preparing a report to be published in the coming weeks on the review which is being keenly awaited by the Government. Ministers fear they will be heavily criticised by the committee over their handling of the review.