U.K. Wasting Money on Unwanted Defense Kit, Lawmakers Say

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense is sitting on a growing stockpile of equipment as it wastes “significant amounts of public money” buying supplies it doesn’t need, a panel of lawmakers said.

The department has accumulated unwanted items valued at 3.4 billion pounds ($5.2 billion), the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said in a report published in London today. It said the military purchased 38 percent more materials such as clothing and ammunition than it used in the 24 months ending in March 2011. Some depots for non-explosive items are 90 percent full.

“With stock returning from Afghanistan and soon from Germany, the problem is likely to get worse unless the MOD acts now,” Richard Bacon, a committee member from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, said in an e-mailed statement. “It is particularly galling at a time when funding is tight and when one considers that the National Audit Office has been warning about these issues for over 20 years.”

The government said last month it had been able to bring defense spending plans into line with budget projections following more than two years of efforts to plug a gap of more than 70 billion pounds. Further cuts now under consideration as economic growth stagnates threaten to open a new 11 billion-pound funding gap, the London-based Royal United Services Institute, a research group, said in a report yesterday.

A plan by the ministry to spend more than 1 billion pounds on a new inventory system may be ineffective because officials lack information on the supplies held and are thus unaware of the true scale of the surplus, the cross-party Public Accounts Committee said.

“Before getting its new system up and running, the department needs to perform a full cleansing and reconciliation exercise, to ensure it doesn’t waste even more public money,” Bacon said.

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