Defence chiefs gain more control of budgets

28 June 2011

28 June 2011 | Angeline Albert

Britain’s army, navy and RAF chiefs will be given greater responsibility for their budgets, defence secretary Liam Fox says.

The military’s top brass will be handed more control of equipment programmes and greater freedom to make purchasing decisions within their budgets.

The minister’s move to give the chiefs more accountability and control follows the publication of 53 recommendations on how to reform the Ministry of Defence (MoD), to which the minister has agreed.

The document Defence Reform: An independent report into the structure andmanagement of the Ministry of Defence, released yesterday, contains the findings of a review of the MoD by Lord Levene and highlights poor procurement at the department.

It said: “The MoD has struggled to bring coherence to its information management processes: policy is unevenly implemented, systems procurement is fragmented and governance structures are weak. Part of the cause has been excessive delegation and loss of central control.”

To tackle this, Levene suggested chiefs “be given greater freedom to flex within their budgets, provided they continue to deliver the agreed objectives within their delegated resources”.

He also said the department often underestimates the importance of good, transparent communications and genuine engagement, stemming from its “need to know” culture and a concern about leaks, which hampers good purchasing because it creates a tendency to communicate late. He added that MoD staff implementing work are not “as bought-in” as they need to be.

"On the surface, it makes perfect sense that defence secretary Liam Fox is aligning government spend with government policy and taking a more agile, strategic approach," said CIPS CEO David Noble.

"We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that some good procurement practice does exist, but much can still be done. It’s encouraging that this change aims to create a more collaborative approach to defence spending and break down the barriers of competition between the three services. Collaboration is more likely to bring efficiencies, not just of scale, but removing the need to bid for the same pot of money."

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