The Ministry of Defence has spent almost £600m on hundreds of external specialists, consultants and advisers, breaching government guidelines about expenditure.
Figures released under FoIA show that the MoD spent £564m in the last two years for the “technical support” of teams running the department’s biggest engineering and procurement projects. In 2006 that figure was £6m.
The Freedom of Information request submitted by The Guardian also revealed that an internal audit of the defence contacts signed in the last two years highlighted numerous flaws and characterised MoD’s control of its own budget as “poorly developed or non-existent”.
The disclosure has infuriated trade union leaders, who claim the MoD is paying the price for cutting too many in-house specialists, which has forced it to rely on expensive help from the private sector.
But defence minister Andrew Robathan has claimed nothing was wrong. In a letter to union leaders after the internal report’s publication, he wrote: “I am … content that appropriate safeguards are in place.”
The expenditure figures snowballed after a new regime introduced by Labour in 2009, allowed senior defence officials to hire specialists short-term and without authorisation from a minister.
As The Times also reports, 380 firms are currently paid to give technical support to the MoD. It also revealed one firm, Alix Partners, earned £5.5m at a rate of £4,000 per consultant per day.
Governments resists disclosure of Nestlé takeover documents
The government is blocking The Press in York’s FoIA request to gain access to the documents relating to Nestlé’s takeover of Rowntree in 1988. As the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade reports, after The Press’s original request in 2008 was rejected, its second application in 2010 was approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office. Nevertheless, the government has appealed against that decision, taking the case to the first-tier tribunal of information rights.