13 July 2000 | Cathy Hayward
Purchasing time and cost overruns are getting worse at the Ministry of Defence, according to the National Audit Office, writes Cathy Hayward.
The NAO's annual report on the major defence projects that are currently in the pipeline, Major Projects Report 1999, found that the armed forces now receive major equipment on average four years late.
Four of the 25 projects contribute to the bulk of the cost overruns: the Eurofighter, Merlin helicopter, Bowman radio and Spearfish torpedo.
The report also found that the average in-service delay has increased from 32 months in 1993 to 47 months in 1999. Such slippage, said the NAO, compromises the military's operational effectiveness.
But the MoD has hit back with claims that the report reflects the department's position before the full implementation of its smart procurement initiative - launched in 1997 as part of the strategic defence review, which introduced a range of measures to address equipment delays.
"Smart procurement has already had a number of successes, such as with the future offensive air system," said Sir John Bourn, the MoD's comptroller and auditor-general. "But with some project timescales being in excess of 30 years, it will take some time for the full impact to be seen."