"Naval Administration" by Sir Vesey Hamilton
"Naval Administration" by Sir Vesey Hamilton

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"Naval Administration" by Sir Vesey Hamilton, G.C.B. (1896)



The work which is prepared for and supervised in the manner I have described, is practically carried out in the dockyards and establishments under the superintendence of the Director of Dockyards, an officer who, like his colleagues in the Department, has been made directly responsible to the Controller. The Director of Dockyards is that officer upon whom devolves the Controller's responsibility for the general management of the dockyards at home and the naval yards abroad, and for the economical performance of work therein; that is, for the building of ships and boats of all classes, the proper maintenance and repairing of ships and their machinery, and the keeping of vessels up to the approved standard. He is charged also with the duty of introducing and using machinery and appliances in the yards and factories, as well as in the victualling yards. Another important duty of the Director of this Department is to prepare for approval the annual programmes of work in the dockyards at home and the naval yards abroad, for use in framing Vote 8, Section 1, of the Navy Estimates, and to determine the work to be done in the dockyards, as well as to regulate the number, appropriation, and pay of the men, and the supply of necessary materials through the Director of Stores, in accordance with the shipbuilding programme approved. Further, he assists the Controller in the preparation of the estimates for plant and machinery required for the naval establishments (included in Vote 8, Sections 2 and 3), and submits proposals relative to necessary works to be carried out in the yards by the Department of the Director of Works. But his responsibility does not end here. The Director is instructed, as work goes forward, to exercise control over expenditure at the dockyards of the money voted, for which an excellent system of expense accounts exists, as well as at the foreign yards - Gibraltar, Malta, Bermuda, Hong Kong, the Cape of Good Hope, Jamaica, Halifax, Trincomalee, Esquimalt, Sydney, and elsewhere.

The creation of the office of Director of Dockyards was sanctioned in December, 1885, in lieu of that of Surveyor of Dockyards, and at about the same time the Inspector of Dockyard Expense Accounts was appointed. The whole system of dockyard management had been inquired into earlier in that year, and the Committee had come to the conclusion that the then existing control was insufficient and gave rise to abuses. First appointed in 1872, the Surveyor of Dockyards had been understood to be an officer vested with due means of control, as well as a channel of personal inter-communication between the Admiralty, through the Controller, and the superintendents and yard officers at the out-ports; but he had become so much engrossed in occupations at the Admiralty, that the dockyards were almost deprived of his services, and much mismanagement resulted, owing, largely, to want of continuous and formal inspection. Accordingly, the new Director was instructed to visit the dockyards frequently, "for the purpose of conferring personally with the superintendents and officers in regard to the ships and works in progress." The Surveyor of Dockyards had been subordinate to the Director of Naval Construction, who was responsible for both design and construction, but had also been officially vested with such discretion and freedom of action as to give him personal responsibility for dockyard work. In instituting the new office, an attempt was made to maintain the same distribution of direction and responsibility. The appointment was of "a Director or Inspector of Dockyards, who, subject to the Director of Naval Construction, will exercise a general supervision over the work at the yards," with its due, timely, and economical execution. The indeterminate nature of the responsibility thus devolving upon the Director of Dockyards led to a minute being prepared on March 8th, 1886, during Lord Ripon's tenure of office, which remained in abeyance until the following May, wherein it was laid down that "if such a system as this is to be effectually established, it will be necessary to separate distinctly the functions and duties of the designing and building branches." "They should be co-ordinate branches acting as a check upon one another under the supreme control of the Controller." The instructions issued on May 28th, 1886, gave effect to this view, the Director of Dockyards, no longer subordinate to the Director of Naval Construction, being made responsible to the Controller of the Navy for the building of ships, boats, etc., in dockyards, and for the maintenance and repair of ships and boats, and of all steam machinery in ships, boats, dockyards, and factories. His personal responsibility was thus defined, as that of the Surveyor's had been, "He will be left such discretion and freedom as will make him personally responsible if the work at the dockyards be not properly and economically executed." In the last chapter but one I endeavoured to show how the responsibility of the Director of Naval Construction for his constructive work is construed. It will be seen that the operations of the Director of Dockyards and his staff upon the constructive side of naval administration, involving, as they do, the employment and supervision of an army of artisans and labourers, are of the greatest importance, The whole subject of dockyard administration, and of the functions of the Admiral-Superintendents and civil and other officers, calls, however, for special treatment, and lies, besides, outside the scope of this volume, which is devoted to the central work and machinery of naval administration.

I shall, therefore, going no further into the question of shipbuilding, proceed to deal with the Store Department, without which - to cite but one of its functions - shipbuilding, repairing, and fitting would be impossible, and with the duties and work of the Director of Stores. When Sir James Graham suppressed the Navy Board in 1832, the Storekeeper-General was one of the five Principal Officers who took up its duties. He was charged, under the supervision of a member of the Board, with the maintenance of stock at the naval depots, acting, in regard to shipbuilding materials, in conjunction with the Surveyor of the Navy, and it was his duty to arrange for the purchase of goods to replenish stock, and for the examination of store accounts. With the reorganization of 1868-69, the Storekeeper-General was abolished, and his purchasing powers, with those of the Comptroller of Victualling, were transferred to the then newly-created Contract and Purchase Department, while the storekeeping duties were given in charge to the Controller of the Navy, under whom they were administered by the Superintendent of Stores. A Committee, appointed a few years later by the Board of Admiralty to inquire into the system under which the duties of the Store Department of the Navy were conducted, expressed the opinion, in its Report presented to Parliament in 1877, that the Department was best subordinated, as under the new system, to the Controller, but that the position of its Superintendent should be strengthened in proportion to the magnitude of his duties. Accordingly, in pursuance of the recommendation of the Committee, the title of the Superintendent of Stores was changed to that of Director, his salary was raised from £800 to £1,000, and he was recognized as holding a position like that of the Director of Naval Construction and the Director of Naval Ordnance. The report of the Committee brought about a complete and important change in the storekeeping arrangements, both at the Admiralty and the dockyards - but the details concerning these last lie outride my scope - and the business and personnel under charge of the Director of Stores are now organized precisely on the lines then laid down.

Turning now to the question of finance, the effect of the changes of 1868-69 had been to vest the examination of Naval Store Accounts in the Accountant-General. The arrangement was in many ways unsatisfactory, but I shall defer a statement of the objections to it until a later chapter. The whole subject has been inquired into by several commissions and committees, and it will suffice here to say that, in 1886, the Admiralty transferred the examination of these accounts to the departmental officers, one of whom is the Director of Stores, leaving to the Accountant-General a power of "review," and that this power was subsequently abolished when the audit was confided to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Subsequent to the report of 1887 by the Royal Commission on Civil Establishments, and in view of the recommendations of the Committee upon the Navy Estimates, a Committee was appointed by the Treasury to investigate anew and report upon matters relating to the preparation and review of the Navy Store and Expense Accounts. The Select Committee's report, of May 27th, 1889, which, with the Treasury Minute of July 2nd, 1889, approving its recommendations, was printed as an appendix to the Public Accounts Committee's fourth report for that year (Parliamentary Paper, No, 259, of July 17th, 1889), was favourable to the changes which had been made in transferring the Naval, Victualling, and other Store Accounts from the Accountant-General, and the following general conclusion was arrived at in paragraph 39 of the report:

"The liability of the officers respectively responsible for the Store and Expense Accounts to the absolutely independent review of the Comptroller and Auditor-General for the information of Parliament, of the transactions represented therein, and their further liability to answer before the Public Accounts Committee for any defects or irregularities which come under his notice, will afford a guarantee, which nothing else could make fully effective, that the higher departmental officers who are answerable for the supervision of the machinery by which the regulations are meant to be enforced shall keep that machinery in constantly efficient working order. It will also no doubt incidentally contribute to strengthen very much the control of the Admiralty itself in its administration of the Service."

The check of the Comptroller and Auditor-General has recently been further extended, in that he has been empowered to take stock in any case where, from any suspicion or apprehension of error, or other cause, he may deem such a measure desirable or necessary. He now has power to require that stock shall be taken in the presence of himself or his officer. The hands of the Comptroller and Auditor-General are thus strengthened without any undue responsibility being cast upon him, and without the responsibility of the departmental officers being impaired (Vide Fourth Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, 1884, p. x.).

The Naval Store Department has a very important function. In the first place, the Department embraces the custody, maintenance, and issue of naval, as distinguished from victualling and ordnance, stores, for use in the home and foreign yards and depôts, that is, for the building, fitting, and repairing of warships, but not such stores as belong to the Department of Works, In the same way the Naval Store Department receives and issues stores for ships and vessels in commission and reserve, a great array of objects and necessaries, such as coal, boats, lubricant oils, rope, canvas, tools, locks, tiles, hinges, paint, varnish, etc. The Department has also charge of naval stores for the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, the College at Portsmouth, the Britannia at Devonport, the Engineering College at Keyham, and for mercantile training ships, seamen's barracks, coastguard stations and watch vessels, mercantile cruisers, Royal Naval Reserve batteries, naval prisons, etc., as well as of stationery, periodicals, etc., used afloat and ashore, save in the case of religious and associated books and periodicals, which are issued to ships by the Victualling Department. In regard to all these matters the Director of Stores is accountable under the Controller for the maintenance of authorized stocks at home and abroad; and he is also responsible for the custody and accounting for the receipt and issue of launches, pinnaces, cutters, and machinery, as well as of gun mountings, purchased under Vote 8, Section 3, for the stock of which the Director of Naval Construction, the Director of Dockyards, and the Director of Naval Ordnance are severally responsible. Any deficiency of stores is at once reported to the Controller, and the Director keeps such books as enable him readily to estimate the quantity and value of the various articles in the naval establishments.

To the Director of Stores falls also the important duty of framing the annual estimates (Vote 8, Section 2) of requirements in his department. The stores, as I have indicated, fall roughly into two classes, the first consisting mainly of goods and objects exclusively for constructive purposes, such as plates, armour, forgings, castings, etc., and the second of such stores as are used indiscriminately for shipbuilding work, and for ships in commission or reserve, of which paint, varnish, and oil are examples. In dealing with the estimate for the first class, the Director of Stores obtains information from the yards as to the probable requirements under the shipbuilding programme, ship by ship, so as to avoid procuring any excess of materials or stores. In regard to the second category of articles, of which there is a large consumption, the stocks, the demands, and the estimates are alike based upon knowledge of the average expenditure of past years, modified by consideration of any special circumstances. For such articles each of the home yards sends up an annual demand before the estimates are prepared, showing the existing stock, the expenditure, and the probable requirements. Taking this and other information into account, the Director of Stores is enabled, according to his instructions, to prepare statements of the amount of stores in hand, and of the quantities and kinds he proposes to be purchased, and he arranges for the proper apportionment of stores among the several yards, consulting beforehand the Director of Naval Construction and the Director of Dockyards as to the quantities of shipbuilding materials likely to be required, so that no delay may occur in constructive work, and yet that no excessive stocks may accumulate.

When the necessary stores are provided for in the Navy Estimates, the Director of Stores forwards requisitions for the purchase of them, as may seem best, to the Director of Navy Contracts, an officer whose work I have yet to describe, acting under the Financial Secretary, but at the same time under the superintending Lords of the Departments for which his purchases are made. The Director of Stores must keep himself informed of the expenditure of money voted for the purchase of naval stores, as well as of the increment arising from the sale of stores, etc., so as to be in a position to guard against any deficit in the vote, and in case of such probable deficit or of surplus, to give the Board timely warning. Once a month he furnishes the Controller and the Accountant-General with a report on this head. In short, the regulation of liabilities and expenditure forms a large part of his occupation. To him also return is made of the local purchases and sales of stores, which he checks in regard to the necessity or otherwise of the operations, reporting irregularities, the financial consideration resting with the Director of Navy Contracts.

Outside these important duties the Director of Stores has the supervision, with foresight, of the methodical and rapid working of his department, Thus he sees to the timely shipment of stores, and, for this purpose, directs the movements of storeships and yard craft, being "careful to provide for Her Majesty's ships on foreign stations, and for the necessary supplies to foreign yards." It is his duty to note the results of trials or experiments with new descriptions of stores, and he justifies his responsibility for the due supply of stores by frequently visiting the dockyards and depôts, or despatching his assistants for that purpose; and he examines the storehouses to see that they are well kept, properly arranged and ventilated, with their contents sheltered from deteriorating influences, that the storehouse men understand and perform their duties, and that proper accounts are kept. At the same time stocktaking is continuously carried on in order to guard against irregularities, and the sale of useless stores is supervised. The Director of Stores has much other accounting work to do. A very important business that falls to him - re-transferred from the Accountant-General's Department a few years ago - is the examination and passing of the naval store accounts of ships, and also those of dockyard and naval prison officials at home and abroad, and he is held responsible for furnishing the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and the Public Accounts Committee with explanatory information connected therewith. Again, he is to be ready upon all occasions to furnish such periodical or other returns to the Controller and the Financial Secretary as may be called for.

In addition to the responsibilities described above, which, save in some particulars, are to the Controller, the Director of Stores is supervised, in regard to the supply of coal to the Fleet, by the Junior Naval Lord, who is charged with that very important work. Accordingly, the Director of Stores is instructed to keep himself acquainted with the movements of warships, and with the quantities of coal issued from and remaining in the depots from time to time, and to make a monthly return to the Board thereon, accompanied by such proposals for alterations in quantities intended to be shipped as the movements of ships may render necessary. Remembering the great extent of our fleet, the manner in which our ships are distributed on distant stations throughout the world, the contingencies that have to be provided for, and the absolute dependence of warships upon coal supply, it will he seen that the Director of Stoves has here a task of great magnitude, and of supreme importance for the practical efficiency of the Navy.

The last principal officer of the Controller's Department with whom I have to deal is the Inspector of Dockyard Expense Accounts, whose duties, briefly put, are to keep a careful record of the expenditure at the Dockyards, to supervise the expense accounts, and see that they are clear, trustworthy, and promptly prepared, so that the progress of expenditure, in comparison with estimates, on authorized outlay may be closely watched by the Controller; and the Inspector is farther generally to review and report upon the expenditure for which the Controller is responsible, especially such as cannot be debited to the cost of ships and manufactures. The office of Inspector of Dockyard Expense Accounts dates from 1886, in which year the report of Vice-Admiral Graham's Committee on Dockyard Management was presented to Parliament. That Committee, in addition to pointing out the inadequate supervision of dockyard labour, the waste both of labour and material, the idleness, defective management, duplication of accounts, over-employment of clerks, and useless operations that were found at the dockyards - a state of things which the appointment of Director of Dockyards was designed to remedy - reported that the yard accounts were unaudited, that the accountant was at the mercy of the professional officers, and that there was no independent guarantee that the accounts represented actual facts. Accordingly, the Inspector of Yard Accounts was appointed in January, 1886, as representative at the yards of the Accountant-General of the Navy, in that officer's capacity as deputy and assistant to the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, in order to make effective criticism of dockyard expenditure possible. The accounts prepared by this officer were found exceedingly valuable, for, based upon wage sheets and returns of the issue of stores, they enabled the details of expenditure to be followed without difficulty. But in January, 1887, the Controller of the Navy recommended that the Inspector of Expense Accounts should be regarded as representing both himself {the Controller) and the Accountant-General of the Navy. Various reports followed, with the ultimate result that the Inspector was transferred altogether from the Accountant-General's Department, and came to represent the Controller only. The practical gain was considerable; and I have shown above, in relation to the Director of Stores, what is the nature of the financial check. The detailed character of the accounts now enables the Controller to exercise careful supervision over expenditure and the attribution of funds to special purposes. The key of the system is that each week a return is presented showing the whole of the expenditure for labour and materials in each department of the dockyard, distributed over the various ships and services of the yard. The accounts are kept closely up to date, and, by their definite and detailed character, enable the cost to the nation of any particular ship, completed or in hand, to be arrived at quickly and without difficulty. The inspection is rather a professional than a purely financial one, being necessary to the Controller to enable him to bring about a right allocation of the funds voted for his department upon the Navy Estimates. The system of financial control, with the review of naval expenditure generally, will find its place in a later chapter.

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