The Ministry of Justice is continuing to pay controversial security firms G4S and Serco millions of pounds a month for electronic tagging, more than a year after both companies were supposedly banned from delivering such work. The revelation comes following an analysis of Ministry of Justice data by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, published today.
The analysis is covered in today's Guardian. It reports that both companies were 'given a 15-month extension earlier this year' to their contracts to supply electronic tagging equipment, 'with a further extension possible when that expires in 2016'.
G4S and Serco are currently under criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over allegations that they overcharged the government for years on contracts to deliver electronic tagging of convicted law-breakers in the community. Both companies had their contracts to deliver electronic tagging cancelled in late 2013. They subsequently repaid the government a total of £180 million. At the time, the G4S Chief Executive, Ashley Almanza, told MPs on the House of Commons Justice Committee that his company had struggled to ‘tell the difference between right and wrong’.
Yet some 18 months after both companies were banned from delivering electronic tagging, the Ministry of Justice continues to pay them millions of pounds a month to supply tagging equipment. According to research by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies:
- G4S was paid £8.7 million by the Ministry of Justice for electronic tagging equipment supplied betwen March 2014 and February 2015 (the last month for which data is available) .
- Serco was paid nearly £4.5 million for tagging equipment supplied over the same period.
Matt Ford, Research and Policy Assistant at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, who undertook the research, said:
'The amount of public money that has continued to be paid to these two companies for services that they have found to be managing at best incompetently, and at worst fraudulently, raises yet more serious questions about the nature of markets in public services and what happens when they go wrong'.
Richard Garside, Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said:
‘When the government cancelled G4S and Serco’s electronic tagging contracts in late 2013, the then Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, promised ‘a fresh start for electronic monitoring’. It will surprise many people that the two companies at the heart of one of the biggest overcharging scandals of recent years continue to receive millions of pounds a month from the taxpayer.
‘This latest development raises yet again the question of whether Ministers are being open about their ongoing relationship with G4S and Serco and whether the Ministry of Justice has the competency to negotiate and effectively manage contracts with the private sector.
'The Ministry is continuing to pay G4S and Serco for the supply of electronic tagging equipment, months after the contracts should have been terminated, because the timetable for the next generation of satellite tagging technology has slipped and slipped.
'The Ministry needs to clarify, as soon as possible, when payments to G4S and Serco will end.'