|IAN MCPHEDRAN From: The Advertiser May 21, 2010 12:01AM
AFTER 12 years of delays and mismanagement and a $400 million outlay for new lightweight torpedoes, Defence has nothing to show for the money.
In the latest damning report into Defence projects released yesterday, government auditors have revealed that the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) in 1998 signed up to spend $665 million of taxpayer funds on the European-made MU90 lightweight torpedo without conducting even basic checks.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) said that both organisations thought the torpedo was a straightforward "off-the-shelf" buy and that it was in service with other navies.
"This was not the case," the report says.
The auditors said the original capability will not be delivered, schedules will not be met and the project was only within budget because the airborne version was dumped in mid-2009.
In March 1998 an order was placed under project JP 2070 for the weapon to be fitted to two classes of warships and three aircraft, the RAAF P3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and the navy's Seahawk and Seasprite helicopters.
The MU90 is 3m long, weighs 300kg and has a range of up to 10km.
The auditors found that as of February this year $397.51 million had been spent on the project by the DMO.
"Some 12 years after JP 2070 commenced, and nine years after Government approved Phase 2, which was to buy an initial batch of torpedoes and integrate the torpedo into five ADF platforms, the project is yet to deliver an operational capability," the report says.
The auditors found several major shortcomings with the project including:
A LACK of scrutiny on costings.
INADEQUATE planning and management.
LITTLE support for new alliance contracting.
INSUFFICIENT understanding of the weapon.
POOR risk mitigation.
Defence Minister John Faulkner said the project was still in trouble. "The management of this project . . . has simply not been good enough," Senator Faulkner said.
He said the Government had told Defence chiefs to report every two months on progress.
The torpedo program is a partnership between Defence, Thales Australia, French defence manufacturer DCNS and Italian torpedo-maker Whitehead Alenia.
It has been added to the Government's notorious "Projects of Concern" list that includes others such as Collins-class submarine maintenance, the Wedgetail early warning aircraft and Airbus KC-30 multi-role tanker planes.
The audit office made three recommendations that were all agreed by Defence and the Government has ordered a follow-up audit in 2011.