23 November 2005 | Anusha Bradley
The Ministry of Defence has launched a pre-emptive strike on anticipated criticism of its procurement performance.
The National Audit Office (NAO) is expected to publish its Ministry of Defence: Major Projects Report 2005 on Friday. This will look at how much the MoD's 20 biggest projects are likely to cost to deliver and whether they will be completed on time.
The MoD held a press conference in London yesterday at which Lord Drayson, defence procurement minister, said it was getting better at delivering major projects on time and to budget.
He said: "There is a trend of defence procurement coming under better control. Although we still have a huge job to do and there are going to be some bumps in the road."
According to MoD figures, the cost of the projects is expected to be £699 million less than predicted last year. However, it admitted that delays had worsened, with the collective delivery date of all the projects expected to be about 107 months late.
The NAO's 2003/04 report estimated that the MoD would have to overspend by £1.7 billion to complete the projects and faced a 62-month delay to get the work done.
Lord Drayson said one cause of the problem was that some projects pre-dated SMART acquisition, a procurement process launched six years ago.
"A number of projects were approved before SMART acquisition was introduced, so there are some legacy issues there," he said.
Responding to the NAO's report, the Public Accounts Committee last month criticised the MoD for its "woeful performance", inability to follow its own procurement rules and failure to hold anyone accountable.
Lord Drayson said: "It's important we develop a culture of accountability at the MoD. I am accountable for the acquisition of defence and I am happy to be judged on that."
Sir Peter Spencer, head of the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA), said the MoD was now spending more money early on to assess projects and was more willing to ditch projects deemed too risky.
Lord Drayson added that 2005 had been the best year for the DPA since its formation in 1999.
MoD 'overspends and delivers woefully late