Friday, 7 August 2009

Procurement woes

The government is apparently trying to suppress a report that damns the Minsirty of Defence for incompetent and wasteful procurement procedures. I suppose one should not be surprised really, after all, this important function is now in the hands of a bunch of overpaid filing clerks, none of whom know one end of a weapon from the other and certainly none of whom have ever had to live on a warship, travel in an armoured vehicle or fly in an aircraft purchased under their utterly chaotic system. Add to that the Treasury's disingenuous cost cutting and cheese paring of any budget they can - and defence is an easy target under this bunch of closet communists - and the imposition of the most inefficient and utterly pointless "Project Management" system in the world (Prince 2) and you have a recipe for disaster.

How do you arrive at this position? Easy, you create a climate in which, in order to get anything into a budget, you under price it. Then, when the project is already well advanced, you either up-spec it, or you put it on a "temporary" hold so that you can strip money from one project in order to pay for the overspend on another. THis is how our two new aircraft carriers have suddenly increased in cost by £500 million. No, they haven't been "up-speced" - yet - but the Civil Service decided to "delay" delivery by two years to "save money". Yes, they saved in the short term - as in they didn't spend the budget two years ago, but now we will be paying the extra in two years time. Reasonable? In the rarified atmosphere of Whitehall it seems that this is classed as "saving" simply because it shoves the overspend into the future. No wonder taxes and cost of government rise exponentially.

Then you also have the debacle of spending a vast amount of money developing something - and then cancelling the order. That list is extensive, Blue Streak, the rocket system which could have seen the UK as the world's first nation to put men in space, the successor to Concorde which would have seen mass transport at or near supersonic speeds, the new Rolls-Royce engines for the Joint Strike Fighter which will see not only our investment of £550 million down the tubes but several thousand jobs as well (As has every other cancelled project the Civil Service has screwed up). As I said, the list is extensive and growing all the time. Obviously the latest report is so embarrassing the government have decided that it has to be doctored before anyone can see it - perhaps to hide their involvement and complicity.

Time to clean house - starting with the entire Civil Service. There is simply no other option.

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