Most troop supplies 'arrive late'
Almost two-thirds of the most urgent supplies for British troops overseas arrive late, according to a highly critical report about the Ministry of Defence (MoD) supply chain.
The National Audit Office (NAO) found only 54% of the 130,300 consignments to forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere in 2010 were delivered within their target time.
Some 60,000 arrived late, mostly because of failures to anticipate demand or delays in obtaining supplies from manufacturers, while among the 4,400 highest priority deliveries - described as "immediate" - only 35% arrived within the intended five-day timeframe.
Auditors at the NAO also raised concerns about the outdated IT systems used by the MoD to manage the supply chain. The risk of systems failure - an event that could lead to shortages on the frontline within 30 days - has been raised to "critical".
"Some of the data systems are over 30 years old and are no longer supported by the manufacturers, resulting in a high probability of failure," the NAO said.
"The Defence Logistics Board recently raised the risk of failure in the base warehouse inventory management systems to critical. These systems tell the department what assets it has, and where. If the systems fail the consequences will be severe and could lead to shortages at the frontline within 30 days."
The NAO said waiting times for supplies had improved since 2009, but the MoD continued to lack reliable information about stocks and was sending more than necessary by air. While the Government wants to send only 20% of supplies by air, actually about 70% of those sent to Afghanistan are delivered that way.
The spending watchdog said a 10% reduction in the amount of deliveries made by air to Afghanistan - sending them by land and sea instead - could save about £15 million. It added that the supply chain system was "not value for money".
Tory MP Richard Bacon, a member of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said: "The MoD isn't collecting enough of the information it needs to manage the supply chain properly, and some of the MoD's inventory management systems pre-date the fall of the Berlin Wall and are no longer supported by the manufacturers."
Defence minister Peter Luff said: "Operations in Afghanistan are our top priority and the NAO notes the improvements in the supply chain including to our Armed Forces on the front line. We are constantly working to improve our performance and we are currently implementing an £800m contract with Boeing Defence for a more streamlined, agile, and effective logistics support chain."