Fraud inquiry over nuclear arms depot

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The Government has launched a fraud inquiry into a pounds 50m overspend during the building of the massive nuclear weapons depot for Trident submarines at Coulport on the Clyde, writes Chris Blackhurst.

Officers from the Ministry of Defence police have seized documents from Tarmac, the main contractor on the project to build a new jetty access road and handling area, which saw its cost spiral from pounds 61m to pounds 115m.

A report from the National Audit Office, the public spending watchdog, was heavily critical of the MoD and the Property Services Agency for the administration of the contract. Tarmac was subsequently handed the PSA free of charge in a controversial privatisation in 1992.

The NAO reportcommented that the PSA and MoD were unable to obtain "proper assurance" about the validity of Tarmac's claimed costs. "An independent audit commissioned by PSA found that the nominated quantity surveyor had spot checked labour costs on only some 3 per cent of the contractor's submissions."

Last Thursday, the MoD police raided Tarmac offices. Tarmac said it was surprised by the raids but said it would co-operate with any investigation.