Page last updated at 08:32 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 09:32 UK

NAO criticises MoD over RAF transport aircraft purchase

Airbus A330-200 on test flight
The National Audit Office said the deal was years behind schedule

The Ministry of Defence failed to get the best deal for taxpayers when buying a fleet of transport planes for the RAF, the spending watchdog has said.

The National Audit Office said the 14 Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft would be delivered more than five years late.

The planes would have to be fitted with suitable protection costing hundreds of millions of pounds before they could be used in Afghanistan, it added.

The MoD said the £10.5bn Brize Norton-based fleet would be value for money.

Conflict zones

The dual-use Airbus A330-200 aircraft will be capable of transporting troops and carrying out air-to-air refuelling.

They were due to be delivered in 2006, but they will not be in service until the end of 2011.

Instead, the RAF is relying on ageing Tristars and VC10s to carry out such roles.

The report said the private finance initiative (PFI) deal faced years of further delays if the MoD were to decide the aircraft should be "retro-fitted" with flight deck armour and other protective equipment to enable them to operate in "high-threat environments".

By introducing a private finance element to the deal, the MoD managed to turn what should have been a relatively straightforward procurement into a bureaucratic nightmare
Edward Leigh
Chairman, Commons Public Accounts Committee

The National Audit Office (NAO), Whitehall's spending watchdog, said the process could cost "several hundred million pounds" if it went ahead.

The NAO said that when the MoD originally began work on the procurement programme, it was not envisaged they could be required to fly directly into conflict zones, and no funding was provided for protective equipment.

Instead it was decided the additional equipment would have to be "retro-fitted" once the RAF started taking delivery of the new aircraft in 2011.

In the meantime, it said, the MoD was spending £23.5m replacing flight management systems and cockpit displays on the Tristars so they could carry on operating.

'High standards'

Overall, the NAO said it was impossible to assess whether the PFI deal provided value for money to the taxpayer and it criticised the MoD for failing to carry out a "sound evaluation of alternative procurement routes".

Edward Leigh, the chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which oversees the work of the NAO, strongly criticised the use of PFI.

"By introducing a private finance element to the deal, the MoD managed to turn what should have been a relatively straightforward procurement into a bureaucratic nightmare," he said.

An MoD spokesman said the Tristars currently in operation were "fitted with the highest possible standard" and the new planes' levels of protection would "match or exceed" these.

"The MoD is pleased the NAO has acknowledged that this FSTA [Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft] project has achieved all of its delivery milestones since the contract was signed," the spokesman added.

"We recognise that some aspects of the procurement in the early stages might have been improved but we are content that the UK has secured a good deal for the taxpayer and for the RAF."



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Airbus in record plane deliveries
12 Jan 10 |  Business
Airbus upbeat on superjumbo sales
07 Feb 07 |  Business

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific