Colonel Jonathan Fletcher continued to work on Sangcom project – but for EADS
Close ties between the Ministry of Defence and the contractor overhauling Saudi Arabia’s military communications are underlined by the transfer of the MoD’s project director.
Colonel Jonathan Fletcher, known to friends as “Jo”, was the MoD’s project director for the ‘Sangcom project’, under which a UK subsidiary of EADS, the European defence giant, is overhauling the Saudi national guard’s communications systems.
Fletcher occupied that key role from June 2005. In his CV, he says: “I was responsible as an MoD project director for the delivery of large ‘communications and information systems’ contract to a demanding customer.”
“Responsible for managing relations with a major Saudi Arabian customer and UK MoD project team”
– Colonel Jonathan Fletcher, CV on EADS Astrium job after move from MoD
He did the job for nearly five years, but left the key MoD position in April 2010. Six months later, he joined EADS Astrium as “head of customer relations and special projects”.
In his new job, according to his CV, Fletcher was “responsible for managing relations with a major Saudi Arabian customer and UK MoD project team in order to ensure continued customer satisfaction and bounded customer expectations.”
The disclosure is one part of evidence uncovered by Exaro that increases pressure on the MoD over bribery claims surrounding the contract because of the extent of the so-called “revolving door” of staff between the ministry and EADS.
Exaro revealed in May last year that the British subsidiary of EADS carrying out the contract, GPT Special Project Management, transferred more than £14.5 million as part of the Sangcom project between 2007 and 2010 to two mysterious offshore companies that did not appear to carry out any sub-contracting work.
There is no suggestion that Fletcher approved these transfers. He was not working at the EADS group at the time of those payments.
The Serious Fraud Office is investigating claims that GPT paid bribes to help secure the deal with the Saudi national guard.
One GPT insider said that Fletcher’s move to GPT was “especially provocative” to his former MoD colleagues, who argued that it was “potentially disruptive to the commander who had succeeded him.”
As a result, according to the source, EADS Astrium moved Fletcher in November 2011 to a less contentious role as “technical institute integrated project team leader”, although he was still based in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
Fletcher’s CV confirms the move in November 2011, saying that he became responsible for creating a military technical institute. His CV says: “As part of a major contract to provide communications and information systems to Saudi Arabia, there is a requirement to enhance the skills and knowledge to match the new capabilities being delivered.
“To do this, we have established an integrated project team to deliver a significant uplift to the current technical school. The project will deliver a modern learning environment for 2,000 students and staff that will be the envy of other military forces in the Middle East.”
Fletcher is understood to be resigning from any role at GPT just as its managing director, Jeff Cook, is leaving as part of a management shake-up at the troubled company.