MoD procurement becomes political

26 August 2009
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that procurement at the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has taken a bit of a battering in recent weeks. The government - it appears - is stalling over its decision to publish a report into MoD spending by former defence official Bernard Gray, claiming it is still in draft form. But a copy was leaked to the Sunday Times this weekend and the results are damaging, to say the least. Gray, it seems, chooses his attacks carefully and makes his arguments in simple terms. According to the Sunday Times, he writes: "How can it be that it takes 20 years to buy a ship, or aircraft, or tank? Why does it always seem to cost at least twice what was thought? Even worse, at the end of the wait, why does it never quite seem to do what it was supposed to?" The scathing criticism on MoD procurement is bad enough, but the government’s dithering has turned the report into a full-blooded political issue. The Conservative Party is incensed that the review has not been published, branding the Gordon Brown regime a government of “fear and smear”. This has led to more column inches and further sullied the reputation of the procurement profession. It is right that the government should commission such reviews, but it should have the confidence to publish them un-edited. If the MoD’s alleged procurement deficiencies are exposed, it can rebuild and learn from past mistakes. As for the Tories, rather than falling back on easily spun sound-bites, the party should be producing clear guidance on how it would improve some of the deep rooted issues in defence.
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