This story from the Daily Mirror encapsulates perfectly the dilemma the MoD faces with the Civil Service.[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ministry-defence-seeks-save-money-3015860″]
Now we all know the Mirror is hardly the pinnacle of serious defence reporting but the narrative is a common one.
Civil Servants = Pen Pushers
Pen Pushers = Wasters
Wasters = Less Body Armour for Our Brave Boys
Instead, when you look at the story it is about efforts by the MoD to recruit at a senior level someone to chair the Single Source Regulations Office.
From the Economist job site
An independent public body is being set up to monitor MOD contracts awarded without competition. These include multi-billion pound contracts for cutting-edge equipment such as nuclear submarines and fighter aircraft. Our Armed Forces depend on this equipment when defending the UK’s interests, and we must make the most out of every pound spent.
The aims of the Single Source Regulations Office (SSRO) are to get value for money on defence procurement contracts whilst also ensuring a fair and reasonable return. Defence contributes to the UK manufacturing and exports, and an efficient and thriving sector benefits defence and the UK. The SSRO will set pricing and transparency rules to mitigate for missing market pressures, make binding financial adjustments to ensure fair and reasonable prices, and recommend the profit rates to use in pricing.
You will set up this new organisation as a strong independent body respected across Government and major suppliers. You will appoint Board members, and will be supported by approximately 30 staff. You will have the demonstrable ability to operate successfully at Board level, ensuring effective decision making in a complex business or regulatory environment. You will have proven strategic communication skills, including the ability to create consensus through active debate and logical argument in a challenging environment, and effectively managing conflict resolution.
At up to £550 per day for between 1 and 3 days per week it might sound like fat cat territory but the new body is going to be held accountable for savings in single source contracts. As I showed in a previous post on MoD finances and the high number of contracts that are let without recourse to competition
This was actually announced last year.[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.contracts.mod.uk/changes-to-the-procurement-regulations-a-decision-that-will-keep-britain-secure/”] [browser-shot width=”600″ url=”https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mod-contract-rules-changes-could-save-200-million-a-year”]
It has been reported that part of the famous MoD underspend was £110m in contract renegotiations. It would seem that this £110m was found relatively easily, basically, asking for a discount, so there must be additional scope for real savings.
Am no doubt doing those involved in securing the very tangible £110m in savings a very large disservice but whilst we are making sweeping generalisations;
Better Pen Pushing = Savings in the procurement process
Real savings in the procurement process = More body armour for Our Brave Boys
So what the MoD needs are better Pen Pushers, not fewer, and for that, you have to pay the going rate.