4 November 2021

MPs slam MoD over equipment supply failings

A damning report by MPs has echoed longstanding PCS concerns by sharply criticising the Ministry of Defence over failings in the delivery of military equipment and should be a wake-up call to the department.

The parliamentary public accounts committee found that despite numerous reviews of defence procurement over the past 35 years the MoD “continually fails to learn from its mistakes”. 

The findings echo concerns that PCS has previously raised with the department, as highlighted in our alternative vision for defence report, which set out the case for an alternative way of managing civilian staff within the MoD at a time of staff shortages, increased privatisation, site closures, and new uncertainties outside the EU. Our alternative vision called for an end to further outsourcing and an honest account of existing outsourcing arrangements with a view to returning these activities in-house.

The committee of MPs was responding to a review by the National Audit Office of the MoD’s management of suppliers in the delivery of military equipment programmes critical to our national security over the past 35 years. 

This identified net delays of 21 years across these programmes, with wastage of taxpayers’ money running into billions of pounds. The MoD was found to lack the skilled personnel to effectively manage the performance of these suppliers.

Crucially, the committee says the MoD “continues to be unclear about what additional capability the taxpayer will get from the extra £16.5 billion in the 2020 spending review”. This accords with our union's experience and the recent announcement of 10% cuts in funding for MoD civilian staff over the next 4 years raises concerns that problems like this will get worse rather than better. There will be no assistance in solving the problems in procurement by shedding staff.

PCS Defence Sector Group President, Chris Dando, said: “This damning report reinforces what PCS has been saying for years. It should be a wake-up call to the department. The problems in procurement cannot be solved by shedding staff. Instead, the department should look seriously at how it attracts and rewards staff, in particular the pay progression needed to retain skilled and experienced staff. 

PCS is engaged in general discussions with the employer about improving pay systems that have been devastated by pay freezes and below inflation rises over that last 11 years. 

By retaining those skilled and experienced staff, who can run a better and more effective procurement and supply process, the MoD can avoid a repeat of the failures highlighted by this report.”