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Ordnance Depots (Repayment Procedure)

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 16 July 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for War what are the details of the accountancy procedure which has operated in ordnance depots since January, 1946, for the debiting of stores to Allied Armies and Governments; why it was considered necessary about May, 1946, not only to continue the abridged system of accounting but also reintroduce, side by side, the long method of accounting involving the full complement of six or 12 vouchers; how many clerks and higher-grade staff were employed and still are employed on this additional work: and what justification there is for such employment.

All issues of stores from ordnance depots for whatever purpose involve the preparation of issue vouchers, several copies being required for the clearance of store accounts, as advice notes to consignees and for similar routine purposes. When stores are issued on payment, extra copies of the issue vouchers known as repayment vouchers, are prepared, listed, and checked; together with other relevant papers, such as shipping documents, they are then sent to the War Office or Command authority responsible for preparing claims and securing payment. As some foreign Governments need several copies of repayment vouchers for their own internal accounting processes, it is often necessary for ordnance depots to prepare up to 12 copies of vouchers to cover all purposes. The foregoing repayment procedure has remained in operation without major changes for several years, that is, since long before the recent war.During the war there was a great increase in the quantity of stores issued to Allied Forces. Most of these issues were under mutual aid agreements and therefore without cash reimbursement. After the termination of the mutual aid agreements, however, such issues became subject to payment. Ordnance depots were therefore instructed to reintroduce the normal repayment procedure in respect of these issues, but with the provisional exception of certain classes of stores, pending investigation of the possibility of claiming payment from the Allied Governments for these stores on a broad basis, unsupported by detailed documents. This was the position as at January, 1946. By May, 1946, however, it had been decided, and ordnance depots were instructed, to apply the full repayment procedure over the whole field. (These instructions thus had the effect of abrogating the earlier provisional exceptions, not of requiring them to be maintained side by side with the full procedure.) This step was taken in order to secure repayment vouchers in respect of all stores issued, to serve as: (i) the means of evaluating claims found incapable of broader methods of assessment; and (ii) detailed documentary support in case any claims initially assessed by broader methods should subsequently be challenged on details by the Allied Governments concerned.

The total number of clerks employed in carrying out this full repayment procedure in Central Ordnance Depots was 80 in June, 1946, and 76 in June, 1947. No new staff was engaged for this particular purpose, all required being found by economy in other sections. Except at one depot no additional supervisory or higher grades were employed; at that depot, one warrant officer class I was engaged. The justification for this work lies in the importance of the claims, totalling many millions, from the point of view of the balance of payments with the countries concerned.