Auditors can find 'no evidence' £6.6bn worth of MoD equipment really exists

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AUDITORS have been unable to verify the existence of £6.6 billion worth of Ministry of Defence assets such as vehicles, weapons and radio equipment, they said yesterday.

In a damning report, the National Audit Office (NAO) criticised financial controls in the department as "inadequate", and also branded its payroll function as "not fit for purpose" after finding tens of millions of pounds worth of wrong payments had been made to soldiers.

The auditors said they had been unable to vouch for the 6.6bn of items because evidence of their existence had "not been available".

They also found that a seventh of all payroll transactions covering specialist staff and allowances contained errors, indicating underpayments and overpayments for soldiers totalling more than 140 million.

The findings came amid long-running criticism of equipment provision for soldiers serving in Afghanistan, including accusations that there are not enough helicopters for troops.

The MoD's Defence Storage and Distribution Agency came in for criticism in the report, with more than a fifth of stock lines tested found to have been inaccurately reported.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: "At this time of high operational demand, it is more important than ever for the Ministry of Defence to have accurate records of where its assets are."