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