04 September 2009
Procurement at the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has found itself at the centre of a political storm
Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox branded Labour a government of "fear and smear" for "refusing" to publish a damaging review of defence purchasing by former MoD official Bernard Gray.
And last week Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the department must improve its "bloated bureaucracy" and "bungled procurement projects".
The Gray review was leaked to The Sunday Times last month. The newspaper reported that Gray had found purchasing problems to be "endemic", putting frontline troops in danger. It also revealed that Gray believes current projects for frontline equipment and technology are £35 billion over budget and five years behind schedule. Complex equipment specifications are thought to be a major factor in the problems.
Armed forces minister Bill Rammell rebutted the claims and said lives are not being put at risk as a result of poor procurement.
"It is important that we seek to get the best value for money in what is an enormous equipment purchase programme," he said. "We asked for the report and will respond to it."
The MoD said the review would be published in due course and would "feed into" its recently announced defence Green Paper.
Meanwhile, a separate report out last week by trade body the Defence Industries Council said the MoD can play a key role in helping the country out of recession.
It said the government can use its £9.5 billion defence equipment and services spend for the next two years to create "wealth and employment" in the UK.