The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is asking its external lawyers to be more accountable and to offer added value.
The move follows the launch of a new private finance unit last week, to be headed by Nick Prior, a senior executive on a two-year secondment from PPP and PFI agency Partnerships UK, to oversee all of the MoD’s PFI programmes. The aim of the unit is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of private finance procurement to avoid a recurrence of the severe delays that hit a £13bn order for new air-to-air refuelling tankers.
Prior told The Lawyer that although the MoD is not planning to make any changes to the firms it instructs, he wants the department to be more sophisticated in the way it uses external advisers and he expects its legal advisers to take greater ownership of the procurement process.
“There’s a concern that we haven’t been using our lawyers in the right way and therefore haven’t been able to get the best value,” said Prior.
Admitting that in the past too many of the MoD’s advisers told the department’s projects team what they wanted to hear, Prior said: “We want the partners to take a keen interest in the procurement. We want them to give their opinion at every critical stage in the process and to say that part of the procurement is ready to go forward.”
He added that, when a procurement gets to the invitation to negotiate stage, the MoD expects its lawyers to confirm whether the relevant draft contracts are in an appropriate condition to show to bidders.