Accountants kept on Kosovo standby

Accountants at the Ministry of Defence were still on standby in Whitehall this week as defence secretary George Robertson made a request for an increase in the departmental budget to fund expanded commitments in the beleaguered province of Kosovo.

Despite claims that accountants would be sent into Kosovo once ground troops went in, the operation is still being tracked centrally by Whitehall, according to an MoD spokesman.

Robertson has been forced to ask the Treasury for a special top-up to his budget to meet the £500m bill for Britain’s involvement in the Balkans.

The move follows an earlier appeal by the MoD before the aerial bombardment commenced in March for access to the government’s contingency reserve, thought to total about £2bn.

Operations in the Balkans are also being monitored to determine how the government’s new resource accounting and budgeting system will operate when it goes live in 2001. Last month, a defence spokesman said if military commitments were expanded, the MoD had not ruled out sending accountants to track expenditure. The National Audit Office is also monitoring the situation.

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