Ministry of Defence waste and blunders revealed

Fighter jetThe Ministry of Defence is being forced to make all sorts of cuts under Liam Fox (pictured), and we're well-aware that in this sort of business, cutting costs is sometimes a matter of life and death. There have been plenty of difficult decisions on pay and jobs for front line personnel and claims of lack of suitable equipment.

So it's particularly galling to hear about the spectacular level of waste that is going on elsewhere in the MoD.

The details have emerged from accounts submitted to the National Audit Office, and they reveal a horrifying trail of blunders, waste and pure fraud.

How the money is wasted
The blunders start to make you wonder how the Ministry ever manages to get anyone to any front line with their boots on. Among the most costly and humiliating were when the nuclear submarine HMS Astute ran aground on a training exercise and cost £2.4 million in rescue and repairs. Then there's the nuclear warhead that crashed during testing at a cost of £1.7 million.

The waste is appalling. Among the most expensive of their stupid decisions was the £1.7 million paid to a furniture company in an out of court settlement after a disastrous purchasing decision. These figures don't even include the cost of the early withdrawal of Harrier fighter jets and the cancellation of a new Nimrod fleet, which will show up in next year's figures as a £5.4 billion waste.

Then there are surprising decisions - where surely we are only getting half the story or it would seem impossibly strange - it spent £1.7 million on helmets and body armour for Ugandan soldiers. This was apparently a gift.

And finally the most damning of all: fraud. The Ministry puts aside cash to pay for the private education of the children of military personnel. It was forced to write off an incredible £500,000 over suspicions of fraudulent claims ripping off the system.

It gets worse
This is by no means the end of it either. As well as the bill for scrapping the planes, we can look forward to the financial fallout of renegotiating or scrapping another 500 contracts.

And to add insult to injury, the national audit office has expressed alarm at the accounts, and the failure to provide proper evidence of expenditure. There's about £5.3 billion of military equipment that cannot be accounted for. It makes Dad's Army look like the height of military efficiency.

There has been plenty of alarm expressed at the massive cuts the government is planning to bring in, reducing spending by 8% and losing 17,000 personnel.

Surely these accounts reveal that it's too early for that. We need to get to grips with what we are spending and what we are wasting first, so we can use that to pinpoint where the cuts need to be made. Surely there's every chance that by getting the accounts right and clamping down on waste there will be no need to lose any staff at all.

Of course this is a harder job, and a more difficult one than simply taking a red pen to the roll call, but surely it's worth it.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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