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Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has urged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to set out the development of its IT programmes to support the more effective management of its inventories.
The call has come within a report from the committee that says the ministry does not have the powers needed to deal with the fragmentation of its inventory management and that this could have serious consequences for the armed forces.
It follows a report last year from the National Audit Office that said ageing IT systems are contributing to persistent problems in the management of inventories for national defence.
The PAC report reiterates the point, highlighting that the Royal Navy’s base inventory management system can record that an item is unserviceable but not why, which makes it more difficult to arrange repairs.
It adds that the fragmented nature of data systems in MoD bodies, with 89 in use, can prevent staff from obtaining a deep understanding of inventories.
There has been some success with the Logistics Commodities and Services Transformation (LCST) contract, agreed in 2015 with the Team Leidos consortium, and the PAC says the MoD should inform it of lessons learned from this and of the progress in merging the contract with others.
“In particular, the MoD should set out how well the IT software programmes are being developed to support the logistics consolidation,” the report says.
It also points to the ministry’s Bridging the Gap project, under which the Army and Royal Navy are moving onto an upgraded version of the Royal Air Force’s more modern inventory system, saying this will not alone address the existing gaps in data.
In response, it recommends that within six months the MoD should provide an update on the progress of the project, and any other measures it is taking to improve the quality of its inventory data.
The PAC also expresses concerns that new posts established by the MoD to bring coherence to inventory management do not have the powers needed to deal with the fragmented system, instead relying on using its influence more informally to improve the situation.
Committee chair Meg Hillier MP said: “Our committee warned over a decade ago of waste and fragmentation in the MoD’s supply systems, and our report finds that many of those problems remain unresolved and without the right powers to address them.
“We were also concerned to hear as part of our inquiry that a contract for a £515 million programme to address data gaps was awarded to a large defence prime contractor without a competitive tendering process.
“The MoD must of course continue to do everything in its power to address these issues at pace while ensuring value for money. Blind spots in the system must be brought into sharp focus, and lessons from the war in Ukraine and the pandemic urgently implemented to ensure resilient supply.”