Wednesday, March 10, 2010

HMT - Is it fit for purpose?

So it's been revealed through a Freedom of Information request (which David Cameron raised at PMQs) that the Treasury costed the entire additional cost of the Afghanistan war as being in the hundreds of millions of pounds or even much lower. In their own words in September 2001:

"Of course the cost could be much lower. But unless a disastrous beginning forces the US to back down, UK engagement is likely to be significant. It could well be in the £100's of millions

Lets see what has actually been spent:

2001 - 02:  £221 million
2003 - 07:  £2.91 billion
2008 - 09:  £2.5 billion
2009 - 10:  £3.75 billion (estimate)
Total:        £9.377 billion

So they were only off by an order of power, the total cost to date has been in the billions of pounds not hundreds of millions.

The FOI itself (see below) doesn't state who authored the documents that estimated the original and hence budgeted cost of the war, I would though imagine that it was civil servants not political appointees.

The question is that if HMT can get an estimate like this so terribly wrong then what else can it get wrong. Are it's economic forecasts to be trusted, what about it's estimates of the cost of new policies. Expected increases in tax revenue from the 50% tax bracket. I would argue that if HMT gets something like this totally wrong then it is not fit for purpose and needs some radical root and branch reform.

Osborne will not only have to face an economy in ruin if the Conservatives get in, but potentially a department as well.

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