The Ministry of Justice has announced that 30 bidders have passed the first stage of a competition to win regional probation service contracts.
Bids come from a range of private firms, charities, British and multinational business. The contracts will for the first time require every prisoner on release from custody to receive at least 12 month's supervision in the community.
You can see the announcement in full and the list of bidders here.
Commenting via Twitter, BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw said:
Ministry/Justice shortlist of 30 bidders for probation contracts includes A4e - 13 of whose staff charged re allegations on welfare-to-work
— Danny Shaw (@DannyShawBBC) December 19, 2013
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has also announced that Serco has agreed to repay around £68.5 million to the government following alledged over-charging on its electronic monitoring contracts.
Daily Mirror journalist Kevin Maguire had this to say about the announcement:
Imagine the jail sentence if a claimant fiddled £68.5m but tagging cheat Serco is asked to repay the cash. Law tougher on poor than on rich
— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) December 19, 2013
In a further development 'serious issues' with two contracts held G4S - who also allegedly overcharged on tagging contracts - to manage court facilities have been identified. The matter has been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.
Both G4S and Serco have already withdrawn from bidding for probation work.