£6bn of lost equipment shames MoD

By Alex Stevenson

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) faces embarrassment as it emerges it has lost assets worth over £6 billion.

A report from the Commons' defence committee said the MoD's failure to provide evidence of the existence and condition of its equipment in 2009/10 was "surprising and worrying" because it suggested the department had not adopting reporting standards.

Military equipment totalling £752 million, including £568 million of 'grouped assets' such as firearms and £184 million of radios, is missing, a National Audit Office memorandum stated.

The bulk of the missing inventory, for which insufficient evidence was provided, came from £5.5 billion of "capital spares and inventory".

Defence secretary Liam Fox blamed the last Labour government for the problems, saying his department "has not managed its resources well for many years".

MPs expressed frustration after the government said its stock control problems were expected to continue for at least the next two years.

"This is not some abstract problem existing only on paper: equipment is needed by troops in the field and proper logistics are an essential part of effective military operations," committee chair James Arbuthnot said.

The MoD faces a period of intense change at present, as defence secretary Liam Fox pushes through sweeping internal reforms.

These are taking place even as eight per cent cuts to the defence budget and major changes in the wake of the strategic defence and security review are pushed through.

MPs insisted the changes did not excuse the lost equipment, however.

"The MoD's inability to manage existing resources makes it harder for them to request additional funding," Mr Arbuthnot added.

"It is also worrying that the work carried out so far to address previously-raised concerns has simply revealed how big these problems are."

Dr Fox said the Labour government's management of the MoD had been characterised by "waste and inefficiency".

He added: "While there are specific difficulties in managing assets in warzones across the globe, we must have better systems in place to accurately track what resources are held and where.

"I announced major defence reforms last week to deliver clearer structures and financial responsibility across the department. This will be implemented at pace and I wish to see demonstrable improvement in the MoD's inventory management."