By Tony Collins
The Ministry of Defence and the three services have spent many hundreds of millions of pounds on logistics IT systems over the past 20 years, and new IT projects are planned.
But the National Audit Office, in a report published today – Managing the defence investory – found that logistics data is so unreliable and limited that it has hampered its investigations into stock levels.
“During the course of our study,” says the NAO, “the Department provided data for our analyses from a number of its inventory systems. However, problems in obtaining reliable information have limited the scope of our analysis…”
The NAO does not ask the question of why the MoD is spending money on more IT while data is unreliable and there are gaps in the information collected.
But the NAO does question whether new IT will solve the MoD’s information problems.
“The Department has acknowledged the information and information systems gaps and committed significant funds to system improvements. However these will not address the risk of failure across all of the inventory systems nor resolve the information shortfall.”
MPs on the Public Accounts Committee, who will question defence staff on the NAO report, may wish to ask why the MoD’s is so apparently anxious to hand money to IT suppliers when data is poor and new technology will not plug information gaps.
MPs on the Public Accounts Committee found in 2003 (Progress in reducing stocks) that the MoD was buying and storing stock it did not need. Indeed after two major fires at the MoD’s warehouses at Donnington in 1983 and 1988 more than half of the destroyed stock did not need replacing. Not much has changed judging by the NAO’s latest report.
It’s clear that the MoD lacks good management information. Says the NAO in today’s report:
“The summary management and financial information on inventory that is provided to senior staff within Defence Equipment and Support is not sufficient for them to challenge and hold to account the project teams…”
But will throwing money at IT suppliers make much difference? The MoD plans the:
- Future Logistics Information Services project, which is intended to bring together and replace a number of legacy inventory management systems; and
- Management of the Joint Deployed Inventory system which will provide the armed services with a common system for the inventory they hold and manage.
But is the MoD using IT spending as proof of its conviction to improve the quality of data and the management of its inventory?