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MoD defence equipment systems “broken and repeatedly wasting billions of taxpayers’ money”

3 November 2021

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been managing suppliers and delivering military equipment programmes critical to UK national security for decades, but despite numerous reviews of defence procurement over the past 35 years the Public Accounts Committee says in its report today the Mod “continually fails to learn from its mistakes”. The Committee is “extremely disappointed and frustrated by the continued poor track record of the MoD and its suppliers - including significant net delays of 21 years across the programmes most recently examined by the National Audit Office - and by wastage of taxpayers’ money running into the billions.”

In evidence to the Committee, the MoD “failed to assure that it is taking these matters sufficiently seriously or that it can quickly deliver a radical step-change in performance through its improvement plans.” The Committee is “deeply concerned about departmental witnesses’ inability or unwillingness to answer basic questions and give a frank assessment of the state of its major programmes”. MoD’s attempt to improve procurement through its ‘Strategic Partnering Programme’ is expected to deliver savings of less than 0.1% of the forecast Equipment Plan spend.

Crucially, the Committee says the MoD “continues to be unclear about what additional capability the taxpayer will get from the extra £16.5 billion in the 2020 Spending Review”.

Chair's comments

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, 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.”

Further information

Image: MoD