§ 74. Captain BOWYER
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions whether, in certain cases, only 80 per cent, of a contractor's accounts are paid by the Ministry, and that, before the remaining 20 per cent, of such accounts is paid, contractors are compelled to carry out the same elaborate process that is required for the payment of the original 80 per cent.?
In order to assist contractors, payment to the extent of 80 per cent, of the value of the goods has been made in a large number of cases where delivery has been proved but inspection has not taken place. The balance is paid after the necessary inspection has taken place and the consequent inspection notes received. I do not think that the precautions taken in these cases are unwarranted.
§ Colonel J. WARD
Are there any instructions, with reference to the inspection, that they should not be passed, so that really contractors have been deprived of their back money which they should receive?
I think not; but if my hon. and gallant Friend will communicate any cases he has in mind, I will have them gone into.
§ 76. Captain BOWYER
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions whether the Accountancy Branch of the Ministry of Munitions conducts its bookkeeping on the system of double entry; whether the delivery of any single article by a contractor involves the use of the following documents: six copies of an issue warrant, six copies of an advice note, six copies of an inspection note, and four copies of a railway transit note; whether he will state the number of sections into which the Accountancy Branch of the Ministry of Munitions is divided; and in how many different buildings these sections are housed?
The answer to the first part of the question is "Yes." As regards the second part, separate issue warrants are used for each bulk allocation only from the contractor's works; advice notes and inspection notes are required for each separate consignment of goods; and railway transit notes are only used when, the cost of carriage is a direct liability falling upon the Ministry. The necessary number of copies of these notes are obtained by one operation. In answer to the third and fourth parts of the question, at the time of the Armistice the staff was distributed in thirty-four different buildings. This was done largely because it was found that efficiency was greatly increased by housing the various sections of accounts in close contact with the services of Supply and Contracts on which they depended. The Department is now divided into nine sections and is housed in nineteen buldings, but arrangements have been made to concentrate them into three.
78. Mr. DOYLE
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions how many contractors' accounts were paid during, say, the month of August last in respect of goods delivered before the Armistice; and what is the average period of time required by the Accountancy Branch of the Ministry of Munitions to ascertain the precise position of any contractor's account?
Twenty-nine thousand four hundred and three claims were paid during the four weeks ending 27th August. The number of these claims, which were in respect of deliveries prior to the Armistice, could only be ascertained at considerable loss of time and labour, and in view of the depletion of staff in the Ministry, I hope my hon. Friend will not 615 press for the information to be supplied. As regards the second part of the question, I would refer him to the answer I have given to the hon, and gallant Member for Ashford. I may add that the final reconciliation of a contractor's accounts with those of the Ministry is dependent on the contractor furnishing certain necessary information which in many cases has not been forthcoming.