Monday, 26 July 2010


Each year, coming up to April time, our place, like most others is buzzing with auditors looking over the company’s financial accounts. Every penny must be accounted for, whether it has come from government or EU, whether from Lottery Funds or from contracts with the private sector or government. Not a penny piece can be unaccounted. It’s a lot of work to make sure that the auditors can find every single receipt and it’s much to our part-time accountant’s credit that the auditors can sign off the accounts every year.

So it was with some dismay that I read today in the Independent that the Ministry of Defence's accounts were today "qualified" by the Whitehall spending watchdog after it was unable to account properly for more than £6 billion of equipment.

So, “qualified” means that they could account for all (like we can) except for £6b .... Oh well, that’s alright then. What’s £6b between friends?

But the worrying thing is it is the fourth year in succession that the National Audit Office (NAO) has “qualified” the MoD's accounts. According to the NAO despite efforts by the MoD to tackle the issue, there remain "systemic and deep-rooted" problems with its asset management system.

It seems that the problems are worse than had
been thought. In trying to track down missing equipment the team has uncovered fresh difficulties. The MoD, it seems, cannot account for the whereabouts of £5.5b of spares and other stocks; £752m of military equipment including firearms and £184m worth of Bowman radios (around 6,000). How on earth do you lose 6000 radios?

Where are all these things? Have they been stolen? Have they been sold? By or to whom? With around 90,000 Civil Servants you would have thought that a tracking system could have been installed in the MoD.

It’s high time Liam Fox found out why his accounts can’t be properly signed off. Signing the accounts off with qualifications is not good enough. it doesn't concentrate the minds of the management in quite the same way as an outright refusal, which is what would happen to a private sector company.


  1. It's easy to lose 6000 radios when your government won't provide equipment that works. Then what you do, rather than go through the endless paperwork involved in acquiring another one, you drop it on the ground and grind your heel into it so the enemy (in war situations) can't make use of any parts.

    Have you ever experienced the MoD's paper system? It's an absolute nightmare and no private business would even consider using it because a large proportion of their staff would be tied up pushing paper and being non-productive.

    Therein lies the difference.

  2. So why doesn't the management (the SoS) change it Subrosa? That's what we pay the uselss idiot for.

    After all, he's not fighting the war; the soldiers are doing that.

    And clearly he's not managing the war; America and the American Secretary of Defense is doing that.

    So what's the evil little bigotted slimeball for?

    Well, he could get together with Sir Humphry and work out a system that does work.

  3. Tris

    you some sort of bean counter or what????

  4. This is a fine example of the ministerial chaos the Conservative-led coalition has inherited from the previous Labour regime.

    I hope Liam Fox gets to the root of questions like this.

  5. Me Niko? I can't count at all :-))

    Besides I haven't got a bean to count.

    How did you get on today?

  6. I suspect that most departments in Whitehall have been basket cases for some time Dean. Certainly the Home Office and the Foreign Office amd probably the Treasury date back some time.

    But you're right. The shambles that a large number of Labour SoSs left will take some time to clear up.

    The pity of it is that they chose the least able man in the Cabinet for this post.

  7. Good of Dean to blame the last government but its been endemic for decades. Remember the Shackelton (I think) it had a door locking problem sorted by the aircrew with a 6" nail (15cm for the young), sorted by the MOD at £200 a time. Secretaries using a file came cheaper varnish extra.

  8. Yes, Cynical: As I said, the problem dates back a good way. Blair and Brown didn't help but they didn't make it much worse from what I can understand

  9. Cynical,

    I can blame the last government, not least because they presided over mounting crises [plural intended] for more than 12 years!

    I acknowledge the rot started long before, but face it - New Labour has come to represent and embody ministerial chaos, poor judgement and general incompetence across all governmental departments.

  10. Dean: Whilst what you say is true, surely the Major government did exactly the same. They were all fighting with each other and they hated each other ... and him....