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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office resource accounts for 2005-06, published today, include a report by Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, on the theft and misuse of satellite phones in Iraq.

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The NAO report provides Parliament with details of losses of £594,000 caused by the unauthorised use of satellite telephones in Iraq. Three phones were lost or stolen from stocks in Baghdad or Basra; these phones subsequently ran up large bills between September 2003 and June 2005, including calls to premium rates lines in the Wallis and Futuna Islands in the South Pacific.

The Department’s Financial Compliance Unit (FCU) report on the incident found that numerous weaknesses in control systems had allowed the misuse of the phones to continue undetected. Staff in Baghdad and Basra were not informed that the items were being sent; there was no management officer on the ground to record what equipment had been received or issued, and there was a lack of secure storage in Iraq to house such equipment. In addition, the phones had been activated prior to being sent, so they could be used immediately by anyone with possession of them; there was no credit limit on the phones, and bills were paid without compliance with established proper procedures and adequate budget monitoring.

The FCU report made recommendations to address all of these points, and the NAO has supported the findings and response.

Notes for Editors

  1. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  2. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 800 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

Press Notice 55/06

All enquiries to Mark Anderson,

NAO Press Office:

Tel: 020 7798 7558 Mobile: 07796 937119


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