Sir Bernard Gray Rises From the MOD Grave – ex Procurement Head to Review His Own Changes

Connoisseurs of strange civil service decisions will be fascinated by this one. The Defense News website reports that Sir Bernard Gray,  who until recently ran the UK's Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation within the Ministry of Defence (MOD), has been asked to carry out a study to look at how the implementation of changes in defence procurement have gone since 2010.

"Sir Bernard Gray has been asked to undertake a technical review into the state of the procurement landscape. The review will look at the recommendations made in Sir Bernard’s 2009 Review of Defence Acquisition and Lord Levene’s 2011 report on Defence Reform. The report will examine the degree and success of the implementation of the recommendations of these reports in order to inform future strategy and direction,” an MoD spokesman said.

Why do we think this is - how shall we put it politely - ridiculous? Because Gray himself has been the most influential figure in those changes. He wrote his report on defence procurement in 2009 and then was brought into MOD after the 2010 election to implement his ideas. Not everything he favoured actually came to pass however - his idea of turning DE&S into a "GoCo" didn't happen as the MOD could not achieve a robust competitive process to find a commercial partner.

But surely asking him to review progress is like asking me what I think of the quality of Spend Matters articles. It is the "marking your own homework" problem. What can he possibly say? "All my ideas were rubbish, I have no idea why you implemented them"? Or "it would have been better if you had done exactly what I suggested? Is there really no-one else out there who could have taken an independent look at this?

The other linked point that will offend procurement sensibilities is the "single tender" nature of the engagement. Gray's firm is big paid £60,000 for the work, not a lot in the greater scheme of things but there is no real reason why there could not have been  bit of competition at least.

Apparently, this engagement was made by Jon Thompson, until recently the Permanent Secretary at MOD. Our limited personal experience of Thompson was positive, but it is hard to see his logic for this engagement.  He left MOD to go to what appears to be more of a number-two role at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, which seemed like an odd move to us at the time - but perhaps if he was making daft decisions like this, the time was right for him to leave MOD.

Finally, we suspect that Tony Douglas, the newish head of DE&S (who has made a good early impression internally, we hear), will no doubt be delighted that his predecessor is going to be poking around the place!

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