MPs slam latest Ministry of Defence scandal as typical of 30 years of contract mismanagent
Taxpayers are set to fork out anywhere between £41 billion ( latest government estimate) and £205 billion ( if you believe the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament estimate) to pay for replacing Trident.
So it is extremely disturbing to discover that the first facilities to allow this hugely expensive military project to start – are already wildly over budget and years behind schedule.
Our present nuclear deterrent is due to be upgraded in 2030 with the building of four Dreadnought submarines and the government is considering ordering new nuclear warheads from the United States. No doubt this will be one of the discussions between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.
To get the programme on the road the government signed contracts worth £2.5 billion to upgrade three facilities. They will now cost at least £3.85 billion.
These were a new a new nuclear warhead assembly and disassembly facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment site at Burghfield.
A new nuclear core production capability at the Rolls Royce site in Derby to produce the latest nuclear reactor core designs.
And a new facility at the BAE Systems shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness where the new Dreadnought class submarines to carry nuclear missiles will be built.
After a damning National Audit Office investigation into the projects MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee have produced their verdict on the projects and it is not a pretty sight.
For a start the whole cost has shot up by well over 50 per cent and we haven’t even completed any of the projects. The worst case is the project at Burghfield whose costs have increased from £1.8 billion to over £2.8 billion and it has gone up 146 pc since first proposed in 2011. It should have been completed three years ago in 2017 but won’t now be ready until 2023.
Similar cost and time overruns apply to the nuclear reactor core programme which will now cost £484 million should have completed next year but won’t be ready until 2026.
And the work at Barrow now costing £240 million won’t be ready until 2022 – some 20 months behind schedule.
Part of the reason for the mess is that the projects were poorly designed and the ministry went ahead before they had finalised the upgrades.
No wonder Meg Hillier, the chair of the committee, is so scathing today about the waste of money.
“ To utterly fail to learn from mistakes over decades, to spectacularly repeat the same mistakes at huge cost to the taxpayer – and at huge cost to confidence in our defence capabilities – is completely unacceptable. We see too often these same mistakes repeated.
“The Department knows it can’t go on like this, it knows it must change and operate differently. The test now is to see how it will do that, and soon.
“We expect the MoD to report to us later this year, in its 2020 update on the Dreadnought nuclear submarine programme, on how it is working with industry and other departments to develop and keep in place the skills it badly needs to take forward nuclear work.
We also expect a detailed assessment, of whether the current ownership arrangements for nuclear regulated sites are in the best interests of the taxpayer, to be provided to us by the end of this year.”
What is extraordinary is this ministry has a track record of over budget and late projects stretching back 30 years. Boris Johnson’s spooky adviser, Dominic Cummings, wants a review of how the ministry runs its entire procurement programme.
I don’t agree with him on practically everything else but in this case he is spot on.
Useful documents: House of Commons library report on the cost of the nuclear deterrent here.
Another day. Another taxpayer disaster for the Conservatives. This time it is the National Audit Office reporting on the full cost of Michael Gove’s failed vocational education initiative which cost taxpayers £800m and left a trail of brand new closed colleges. Read the horrendous details of this latest scandal on Byline Times here.
Today I have decided to highlight one of my angry blog supporters who lives in Spain and is a victim of the pension scandal that has seen 3.8 million 50s women waiting up to six years to get their pension.
So outraged at the Prime Minister refusing to consider any compensation for the women that she has written to complain to Boris Johnson and highlight how much money he and his ministers have wasted after researching the bills.
As she puts it: ” Had we run our household budgets as you have run yours, we would have lost or homes and been made bankrupt yet you are able to get away with it. You will get extremely good Pensions unlike the true workers of the country who get the smallest Pension in Europe. I actually don’t know how you can sleep at night!
Carole Irwin lives in the mountains behind Malaga. She tells me :
” I am 60 years old and during my working life paid NI payments whilst working as a nurse for several years, and as a civilian in the Police Service. I then brought up my children, so received child benefit credits for those years.
I moved to Spain to retire with my family 14 years ago. 6 years ago l was diagnosed with an incurable and life changing illness. This costs me between 80€ and 90€ in medications per month alone.
This is why I became a member of #WePaidInYouPayOut which has been supporting Back to 60.
….I am one of the many who has received no letter informing me of this change. When I started working it was on the understanding although only an assumed agreement that I would receive my pension at 60.This change of retirement age along with my illness has affected our plans for our future life in Spain. “
This is her full letter to Mr Johnson:
” I am writing to you as l have many concerns about the enormous amounts of money being wasted by Government’s various departments. In order to be concise l am writing it in bullet points so as not to waste your time.
Firstly Chris Grayling ( who possibly has wasted the most money) who has served in several roles during his time in government and unbelievably still is employed as Secretary of State for Transport of the United Kingdom (2016 to 2019). Had he been employed in the private sector would have been dismissed as his record shows how incapable he actually is! *Chris Grayling alone has so far wasted almost 3 billion pounds of public money…
*At least £500 million to sort out the mess he made when attempting to privatise the probation service (source: National Audit Office)
*£33 million when sued by Eurotunnel over Seaborne Freight fiasco (source: The Guardian)
*£38 million – cost to the economy in the north of England due to the rail chaos in July 2018 (source The London Economic)
*£50,000 on the failed ‘lorry jam’ Brexit exercise in Kent (source: The Guardian)
*£70,000 on failed attempt to ban books from prisons (source: The Independent)
*£2 billion cost to taxpayers on the collapse of Virgin Trains east coast franchise (source The London Economic)
*£15 million a year in additional costs to the Carillion contract to run facilities management in prisons (source The London Economic)
*£5 million on ‘wasted rail fares’ for HS2 staff (source: Huffington Post)
*£50 million on cancelled No Deal ferry contracts (source: The Guardian)
*£32 million of charges that were unlawfully collected – which the government were ordered to pay back (source The London Economic)
*£23 million contract to develop a new generation of GPS tracking tags for dangerous offenders written off because the project proved “too challenging” (source The London Economic)
*£60 million over the £130 million original budget on the electronic tagging programme – described by the PAC as a “catastrophic waste of public money” (source The London Economic)
More government waste is shown by the Tax payers alliance.
Although excellent work has been undertaken by the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group in terms of finding savings, taxpayers’ cash has still been wasted in a number of ways, with significant sums ripe for being saved in many areas, including:
*£53 billion – Additional cost of funding pay and pensions for public sector workers over and above the private sector average, based on analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics and the Pension Policy Institute *£25 billion – Amount wasted through inefficient public sector procurement and poor use of outsourcing, based on an authoritative report from the Institute of Directors *£20.3 billion – Cost to the economy of public sector fraud, according to the National Fraud Authority *£5 billion – Amount paid in benefits to those with an income in excess of £100,000 *£4 billion – Losses to the taxpayer from RBS and the sale of Northern Rock£2.9 billion – Amount spent needlessly by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Department for Culture, Media & Sport, which should both be scrapped *£1.2 billion – Annual subsidy to foreign farmers through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy The planning of the London garden bridge cost £58 million without so much as a pot plant being placed! These figures are also almost certainly an underestimate. A rigorous assessment of the public sector efficiency commissioned by the European Central Bank found that if the UK’s bloated public sector were as efficient as that in the economies of countries like the US, Australia, and Japan, no less than £137 billion could have been saved in the last year! Those is a Huge amount of money!
In addition to the big ticket items, we have identified hundreds of examples of smaller sums being wasted. It is, however, all still taxpayers’ money and there is no excuse for waste, regardless of the amount involved. Among the culprits identified are:
Arts Council: Gave a £95,000 grant to artists in Brighton for “Skip”, a rubbish dumpster outlined with yellow lights!
Crawley Council: Spent £5,070 on 12,200 hot drinks from vending machines for council employees, when the equivalent number of tea bags would have cost just £200!
Department for International Development: Spent £21.2 million on a road maintenance project in Bangladesh, later pulled due to “fiduciary irregularities” after it emerged that less than 10% had actually been spent on roads!
Durham Council: Funded a £12,000 clothing allowance to allow councillors to wear “Geordie Armani”!
Hull Council: Spent £40,000 on a concert in honour of the councillor who is Lord Mayor this year!
Ministry of Defence: Paid £22 for light bulbs that are normally 65p!
Prison Service: Paid £720,000 to professional actors for role playing that is aimed at helping inmates become employed.
Scottish Government: Signed a £1.4 million 4-year contract for taxis for civil servants in Edinburgh – despite staff being told to use buses.
Stoke-on-Trent Council: Spent £330,000 to pay for redundancy packages and subsequently rehiring 25 members of staff.
All this money wasted by your government was paid for by the hard working tax payers and I’m sure if l did more research l could find many more examples. One being to your own embarrassment the purchasing of water cannons. I wonder what they were worth at the local scrap dealer?
There are a great many extremely angry women not yet receiving their hard earned Pensions which was paid for by themselves throughout their lives by paying national insurance. I’m sure they would not have chosen to waste so much money in the way you did, as had that money still been available you could have decided we earned and deserved our pensions. Had we run our household budgets as you have run yours, we would have lost or homes and been made bankrupt yet to are able to get away with it. You will get extremely good Pensions unlike the true workers of the country who get the smallest Pension in Europe. I actually don’t know how you can sleep at night! Due to the appalling waste as listed above, please do it get too comfortable in your role as Prime Minister as l have a strong feeling come the next general election you will have many people choosing not to vote for your incompetent and cruel party.”
On Byline next month I am planning to try and see how much money the PM has also wasted on the No Deal Brexit which increasingly looks unlikely to happen on October 31. This can be added to the figures she has researched.
But I thought it was worth publishing this gigantic list because it highlights the anger people feel about this issue and the waste of taxpayers money by politicians. No doubt the reply will be stuck in a queue in the PM’s correspondence unit. But wider publication will not allow him so easily to get away with it. Nor should he.
One would expect a right-wing Tory like education secretary Michael Gove to be pretty diligent on how he spends taxpayers cash. You wouldn’t expect him to spray public money around without Treasury approval and then tell auditors to get lost if they pick him up on it.
This is exactly what he has done by handing out extra cash to his beloved school academies so they can buy staff redundos with extra payments without bothering to get it cleared by the Treasury.
And when this was rightly picked up by the National Audit Office – the independent Whitehall body that scrutinises taxpayers’ cash – he has had the cheek to demand that the NAO and the Treasury go away and forget it.
The row is revealed by me in a piece for Exaro News (http://www.exaronews.com ) this month after the NAO took the decision to qualify the £6.1 billion accounts of the quango that funds academy schools ( now merged into a wider body ) after it found 14 cases of excess severance payments, totalling just under £230,000 at nine academies.
This may not sound much but it only found out about them after checking accounts of 135 academics – just eight percent of them. The other 92 per cent of academy accounts were never scrutinised by the quango. If this figure were applied pro rata the number of excessive unapproved redundo cash would top nearly £3m.
Now this may be good news for the people involved but it seems to me like a repeat performance of what happened in the Thatcher era where millions of pounds of taxpayers money were paid out in early retirements just when cash was short. The result was worse as many of these people are probably still claiming pensions now.
Don’t get me wrong I am not against people getting a good redundo deal ( I got one myself in the private sector) but I do think that where public money is concerned the deal should be scrutinised by the Treasury first. Otherwise every pound paid out on top of normal redundo is being taken out of paying for kids education.
Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, writes in the report: “YPLA ( the now defunct quango) has not required academies to notify them of severance cases or any other payments that require Treasury approval, and so I have concluded that the assurance framework that YPLA had in place for the financial year was not capable of identifying and managing all cases.”
“I have been unable to confirm that, in all material respects, grants to academies conform with the authorities that govern them, and have been applied for the purposes intended by Parliament.”
Michael Gove’s response was: “We do not believe that we need approval for these payments because maintained schools are not required to submit them. We are working with the NAO and HM Treasury on this.”
This conveniently leaves out the fact that these schools are responsible to the directly elected local authorities, academy schools are responsible to unelected civil servants.
My solution is simple. If Michael Gove wants to spray taxpayers’ money around in this way, he should pay for it himself. After all the excellent new search the money website (http://SearchTheMoney.com/) reveals he has received £462,000 in donations, £304,000 from one private equity firm). So he could raise the money for this excessive payments and leave the taxpayer to fund what it should do-public education.