17 October 2005 | Anusha Bradley
Britain's public defence procurement is once again in the firing line following a damning report criticising overspending, delivery delays and purchasing practices.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) issued its response to the 2004 Major Projects Report by the National Audit Office and said it "once again records the woeful performance" of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and its inability to follow its own procurement rules.
The PAC said: "No one is ever held responsible for these failures, and the careers of those involved remain unaffected."
The 2004 report examined the 20 largest procurement projects and found the MoD had overspent by £5.9 million, and experienced delivery delays totalling more than 17 years since 2002.
The committee has recommended that the department spends more money during the initial stages and tests the viability of projects, including the robustness of its procurement strategy, supplier relationships, technical risk and finance. It said that six years after the MoD had begun its Smart Acquisition programme, which aims to improve the way it acquires its defence capability, it is "at risk of becoming the latest in a long line of failed attempts to improve defence procurement".
MP Edward Leigh, the Conservative chairman of the committee, stated: "These new procurement rules are broadly sensible but MoD officials simply haven't applied them effectively."
A MoD spokesman told SM that was "true", adding: "But, the point is the principles are in place - we simply need to work harder to ensure they are applied across the board."