Dr Liam Fox in trouble and Labour call for MOD to show “probity in procurement”

So we still haven’t had a response from Ursula Brennan, the Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary, to our July letter asking her to stop the MOD’s consulting contract with Alix Partners (let without proper competition and at £5000 a consultant day you may remember. Plus lunch).

Dr Liam Fox and Adam Werrity

But she’s been busy this weekend, carrying out a review of whether her Minister, Dr Liam Fox, broke the Ministerial code in terms of his relationship with friend Adam Werrity. She will be looking at whether there were any security issues, both in terms of issues like access to confidential documents, but also apparently whether Werrity was involved in any defence related business deals.  And there are suggestions that he involved Fox in some meetings that went outside the normal official Ministerial duties.

Going back to our Alix Partners investigation - we found no evidence of any Ministerial involvement in the Alix deal, although Fox defended it vigorously if illogically to the Times by saying “they’ve saved much more than their fees”.

This of course is irrelevant to the basic problems of lack of competition, and paying way over the market price.  Alix may have saved more than the cost of their fees but so what?  By the same argument, you’d pay the fire alarm firm £100 million because they “saved” MOD that amount by stopping the MOD Main Building burning down....

But the Werrity issue does make you think. We never got to the bottom of just who recommended Alix – who, as was pointed out by Ian Makgill of Ticon UK, have no track record in MOD or similar work.  We saw a pass the parcel between the Shareholder Executive and MOD on this issue when we asked FOI questions.  But someone said “why don’t you take a look at Alix Partners”? Who was that, and why was that?

Here is Harriet Harman, the Labour Minster, on the BBC TV's Andrew Marr programme yesterday.

“It’s also the question of the probity in procurement – the Defence Department has masses, hundreds of millions of pounds worth of contracts, and there has to be absolute probity around that”.

There's no evidence it was the Minister, Mr Werrity, or another of his friends who suggested considering Alix Partners for the very generously priced £12 million contract, but until someone provides the audit trail for how that firm was first identified, and then selected, we just don’t know.

And did we see “absolute probity” in the Alix Partners decision and contract?

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