MoD criticised for incompetence over Gulf war troops

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Indy Politics
OPERATION GRANBY - the shipping of British soldiers to fight in the Gulf war - was badly handled and unnecessarily expensive because officials at the Ministry of Defence did not have a contingency plan for getting troops to a war zone, it was claimed yesterday.

The pounds 116m operation may also have fallen prey to fraud. Police investigating the allegations have widened their inquiry to Germany and asked the authorities to look into the role played by German shipping agents in chartering vessels for British troops in the Gulf.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee, in a report published yesterday, expressed its 'surprise' and 'disappointment' at the MoD's mismanagement.

Publication of the report was delayed because Malcolm McIntosh, chief of defence procurement, made a mistake when he gave evidence to MPs last summer.

He told the all-party group that brokers bidding for the Gulf war contracts were told simultaneously - using a 'burst telex' system - by the MoD's former freight agent, Hogg Robinson, of the Government's individual shipping needs.

Later, Dr McIntosh admitted that the firms were told by individual telex that could take up to three days to be sent.

Since the police investigation is examining whether a select group of companies, staffed by former Army officers, had an unfair advantage, this was regarded by MPs as a serious oversight.

More than 80 per cent of the business went to five firms, and out of a total of 162 ships chartered for the operation, just five were British.

If that was not bad enough, during the actual operation many critical items went temporarily missing and 228 aircraft pallets worth pounds 680,000 were lost. The MPs described this as 'unacceptable'.

Dr David Clark, Labour's defence spokesman, said he was 'appalled at the incompetence and gross irregularities revealed by this report'.

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