Who ate all the pies?

Until December last year, Sir Bernard Grey was the MoD’s Chief of Defence Procurement, hired in by David Cameron in 2011 to help tackle the ‘black hole’ in MoD equipment spending and to curb cost overruns.

On first impressions, Sir Bernard seems an odd choice as the MoD’s austerity chief. Leadership by example is a core tenet of our Armed Forces and he does not strike me as a man accustomed to self-restraint. ‘Fat Cat’ seems an entirely fair and accurate description of this particular MoD mandarin.

Whatever your opinion of former austerity-Chancellor George Osborne’s policies, his lean and hungry demeanour and his perpetually pallid complexion gave the distinct impression that he was practicing what he preached. Sir Bernard is, no doubt, a very talented man but belt-tightening is, quite evidently, not his area of subject matter expertise.

One of Sir Bernard’s first initiatives in his new job was to run up a £23,000 expenses bill. The MoD were so pleased with this they immediately awarded him with a £45,000 bonus on top of his £225,000 annual salary (nearly twice that of Chancellor George Osborne). In 2014/15 Sir Bernard’s pay increased in-line with his waistline to an impressive £380,000.

In order to avoid criticism for shelling out such large sums of public money to Sir Bernard, in April this year the MoD awarded a £60,000 ‘non-competitive’ deal to an external consultancy, Pole Star Strategy, to assess the effectiveness of his reforms.

According to Companies House, Pole Star Strategy has just two officers: Sir Bernard and Lady Kathryn Grey. The MoD insists Sir Bernard and his wife are ‘uniquely placed’ to conduct his performance review and will ‘provide best value for money’. Just so long as they do so under the guise of a private limited company.

Pole Star’s review is expected imminently. I think we can already guess the outcome.

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.

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