A crashed F-35 stealth jet, a weak pound and a botched fuel deal cost the Ministry of Defence almost £100m in the last financial year, official figures have revealed.
In addition, the amount of money shelled out by the department in “special payments” jumped to £114.5m in the 12 months to the end of March compared with just £5m a year earlier.
This included payouts worth £2.5m to victims of bullying, harassment and discrimination.
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A campaigning group was scathing about the poor use of taxpayers’ money, which was revealed in an annual report on the MoD‘s accounts.
“The scale of these losses is utterly indefensible,” said Elliot Keck, head of campaigns for TaxPayers’ Alliance.
“From huge payouts for bullying, to mistaken payments to the wrong supplier, it’s clear that something is rotten at the heart of the Ministry of Defence. Ministers must ensure that these losses are not repeated.”
The financial hits come at a time of huge cost pressures on the armed forces.
A lack of funds has already prevented Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, from reversing a plan to cut the army to 73,000 soldiers from a target of 82,000 despite a land war in Europe.
Total losses incurred by the MoD over the past financial year soared to £806m compared with £134m during the previous 12-month period, the data showed.
They were led by write-offs for a series of scrapped programmes, which are listed as “constructive losses” based on their value rather than actual cash losses.
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This included ditching a plan worth almost £500m to extend the life of the army’s Warrior fighting vehicles and the scrapping of HMS Atherstone, a Royal Navy minehunter ship – recorded as a loss of nearly £19m.
Actual cash losses comprised almost £2.5m, which evaporated because of a weak pound against the dollar in relation to the purchase of Hellfire missiles from the US.
The MoD also lost more than £300,000 after paying money to the wrong supplier for fossil fuels which could not subsequently be recovered.
A further blow to the balance sheets came after an F-35B jet dropped off the launch ramp on HMS Queen Elizabeth, the navy’s flagship aircraft carrier, and ditched into the Mediterranean in November 2021. This was listed under the category of “stores losses” as a cost of £84m.
Total stores losses, which also included two Watchkeeper drones, came to £95m.
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Asked about the annual accounts, an MoD spokesperson said: “Write-offs of assets are not cash losses and don’t cost the department.
“For example, when decommissioning a ship, the accounts would show a ‘loss’ for the vessel, but this costs the MOD nothing. In fact, future savings made from not having to maintain an older vessel will be made available for other priorities.”