Select Committee on Public Accounts Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Letter from the Clerk of the Committee to the Chief of Defence Procurement (PAC 01-02/18)

  On 17 January 2001 you gave evidence to the committee of Public Accounts on the Major Projects Report 2000. When asked about the selection of the C-17 rather than the Antonov An-124 to meet the Short Term Strategic Airlift requirement you told the Committee that "the key problem with the Antonov is it did not provide secure, assured airlift. We could not guarantee we would get our hands on it when we needed it". Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham supported this statement saying "From the customer point of view that was the important single factor". (both quotations from Q297).

  Following the session, Air Foyle wrote to you on 23 January 2001 claiming that your evidence showed that Air Foyle had been misled about the basis upon which the C-17 decision had been made. Air Foyle copied this letter (and their earlier correspondence with the C&AG on the decision) to the Chairman and several members of the Committee.

  As you may be aware, the C&AG has now completed his investigations into the issues surrounding the selection of the C-17 raised with him by Air Foyle and has written back to the company. A copy of the letter is attached. The C&AG concludes that "the Department was not explicit in setting criteria for how the proposals submitted in the competitive environment were to be evaluated and did not conduct a full Combined Operational Effectiveness and Investment Appraisal because it could not quantify all of the risks involved. Therefore, the information put to Ministers by the Department, although comprehensive in identifying the costs and risks associated with the options, lacked quantification of some of the key risks and was inconclusive, leaving the decision very open. This has led to lack to clarity concerning the basis on which the decision was made, which has been added to the inconsistent picture given by the Department to industry and others more widely on the determining factors".

  In his supporting paper (criterion 4) the C&AG also highlights the differences of emphasis between the debriefing which Air Foyle received from your staff and the weight which you and Sir Jeremy placed in giving evidence to my Committee on the provision of secure assured access.

  The evidence you gave to the Committee does not appear to be consistent with that quoted elsewhere in the C&AG's letter and I should be grateful for your further observations on the matter.

K J Brown
Clerk of the Committee

17 October 2001

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