DTN News: UK MoD Has £6.6 Billion Accounting Hole*Source: DTN News / Defense Media
(NSI News Source Info) LONDON, UK - August 23, 2009: Some £6.6 billion worth of military hardware, some used by frontline troops in Afghanistan, cannot be traced, the National Audit Office (NAO) said yesterday in its annual report on UK defence spending.
Accountants for the NAO examining 2008-2009 military expenditure criticised the Military of Defence (MoD) for being unable to verify the whereabouts of the equipment.
The report comes as a political debate over the adequate resourcing of troops continues to rage and as casualties mount in Afghanistan.
A lack of sufficient Chinook transport helicopters and armoured vehicles for troops in Afghanistan has drawn criticism from commanders on the ground and politicians back home.
The NAO said equipment that had been ordered but is unaccounted for includes Bowman radios, used by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, guns and ammunition, night-vision goggles and batches of body armour.
"We couldn't find the evidence trail for the whereabouts for (this) £6.6 billion worth of assets or what condition it's in," an NAO spokesperson said.
"That is not to say it's lost or they don't exist; it's to say there isn't the trail to say where they (the assets) are," he said.
Conservative shadow defence secretary Liam Fox called the NAO findings extremely worrying and a "sorry tale of failure at the MoD" when troops already lacked vital kit.
"How can you make accurate budgetary decisions when you lack basic information about where vital equipment is? If you don't know what you have got, how can you know what you need?" he said.
The Liberal Democrats also attacked the MoD.
"Shortages are bad enough already without government bungling meaning that fighting vehicles, machine guns and body armour may not be getting to where they are needed," said their shadow defence secretary Nick Harvey.
The NAO also said it had identified errors in specialist pay and allowances paid to personnel and called for an overhaul of military payroll systems.
"At this time of high operational demand, it is more important than ever for the Ministry of Defence to have accurate records of where its assets are, and how much stock it has," said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.
"It must also have a military pay process which is fit for purpose," he added.
Morse acknowledged that some improvements to the payroll and HR systems had been made over the last year but said important issues still needed to be addressed.
The MoD countered the £6.6 billion worth of assets "were never physically lost."
It said that a lack of a proper paper trail reflected an increasing intensity in military operations of late and not large-scale errors.
"The issues relating to fixed assets, Bowman and stock discrepancies were specific there was no suggestion that any items were lost," it said in a statement.
"The vast majority of stock discrepancies were valued at less than £250 (R3245) and have not impacted on the inventory values."