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The Ministry of Defence, one of the UK's largest landowners, lacks a proper database on its estate and is struggling to cut costs as a result.

That is the verdict of a report by the National Audit Office, which found the MoD property cost problems came in spite of some improvements in planning and disposal.

The CIO 100 listed MoD is targeting a 12 per cent cut in sites, but lacks the right information to help it assess locations on how heavily sites are used, their running costs, or the potential income from a sale.

MoD estate data was being held in a variety of places, both centrally and locally. The NAO found that it was generally "incomplete" and "stored in different data systems that are difficult to reconcile".

The department had cut staff over a 10 year period to 2008, but was reducing property at a rate three times slower than that, indicating many missed opportunities for a quick reduction in property, the NAO noted.

The MoD lacks the central data to aid analysis, the report said, in order to help it reduce costs "in a structured way". It needed clear data for each site on operational importance, usage, condition, potential value, and running costs.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said the department needed to be acting in a "systematic" way, instead of taking opportunities "as they occur". The MoD's decisions needed to be "based on clear objectives, adequate mechanisms for achieving them and good quality central data".

Last week, the MoD cancelled a contract tender for IT consultancy services worth £141 million, understood to be part of expenditure cuts following the chancellor's Emergency Budget.