New group set up to tackle crime against the Armed Forces

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A new group has recently been set up to make sure that Defence tackles any criminal activity that is targeted against the supply of equipment and support to the military.

Set up by the MOD’s Director General of Finance, Jon Thompson, the Defence Crime Board, which he chairs, will align and focus the investigation of crime, the Department’s prevention and deterrence initiatives, and the recovery of stolen assets and monies defrauded across all of the MOD and the Armed Forces.

Right back to the time of Samuel Pepys and before, the task of supplying and supporting military forces has attracted thieves and fraudsters. Military equipment and supplies are often expensive to procure but attractive to the wider market and therefore irresistible to the unscrupulous and criminal.

The threat is not only from external sources but also comes from within. It involves not only theft but also corruption, bribery, fraud and other financial irregularities which, if left unchecked, can support an environment and culture which is conducive to fraud.

The new Board was set up as a top-level forum during 2010 with an inaugural meeting, and has started 2011 with a determination to provide the strategic direction for initiatives aimed at combating the harm done to the Defence Budget, to the Department’s security, and even to operational capability, by crime, whether fraud, theft, corruption or other irregularities.

The Board will meet every six months, bringing together senior personnel from across various areas of Defence including Defence Equipment and Support, the Permanent Joint Headquarters, Defence Estates (DE) and the MOD Police (MDP), both civilian and military.

The aim of the Board is better co-ordination of the efforts of all these units and organisations in the fight against crime and, using existing resources, to develop a pan-MOD approach to managing the risks and vulnerabilities associated with the handling of Defence money and valuable assets.

Mr Thompson said:

All of us represented on the Board hold a stewardship role in relation to Defence public money. What we want to drive forward as a Board is better interaction in our risk areas and more sharing of information and plans on how best to mitigate against the threat of fraud or theft.

We are updating the Defence Crime Profile which will help us deploy our resources in a more targeted way. We also want to drive engagement with industry to obtain commitment through the supply chain to ethical business behaviour, and a shared fraud policy carried through to enforcement.

The MOD will have an annual budget of £33.8bn for the 2011-12 financial year and currently employs 191,000 Service personnel and 85,000 civilians. And this budget figure does not include any procurement for urgent operational requirements, which are met from the Treasury Reserve.

The MOD’s capital expenditure makes it one of the biggest spenders in the country:

The sheer scale of the MOD budget makes it essential that we keep on top of our stewardship responsibilities” said Mr Thompson. “I would like the Board to oversee a communication strategy aimed at embedding an anti-fraud culture within the MOD, encouraging staff to report concerns and seeking constantly to promote prevention and deterrence of crime.

Superintendent David Dinnell, Head of the MDP Fraud Squad, who chairs a working group that reports to the new Board, welcomed the greater emphasis on working together with other defence units:

The DIR [Defence Irregularity Reporting] Cell has worked well, manned by DFAU [Defence Fraud Analysis Unit], MDP and DE together. The figures show that the Cell is being contacted more often now by those who want to raise a concern or discuss something they’ve seen or noticed that is bothering them.

Sometimes there is an acceptable explanation, but sometimes the concern turns out to be a real one, which is pursued further. The serious cases are referred to the police, but plenty of cases end up with serious consequences for those involved, even where police action is not invoked.

The Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, welcomed the new Board, saying:

While soldiers are serving the country here and overseas, it is essential that we make every pound count to ensure they get the kit they need.

Theft and fraud weaken our resources, so we shouldn’t tolerate it. People who cheat us need to be brought to justice, and named and shamed. This initiative has my complete support.