Telling right from wrong

Date: 
Thursday, 21 November, 2013

The appearance of four senior executives from Atos, Capita, G4S and Serco before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee got off to a slow start yesterday. It soon warmed up.

G4S Chief Executive Ashley Almanza made the startling observation that the company had failed to 'tell the difference between right and wrong' in the alleged overcharging on tagging contracts, a deficit some might consider rather problematic for a company holding numerous multi-million pound criminal justice contracts. Serco chairman Alastair Lyons offered a similar defence: the company had been 'ethically wrong' to overcharge. 

But it was Paul Pindar of Capita who caused possibly the largest collective eyebrow raising moment among the Committee members. Challenged on the fall in the number of people attending interviews since his company took control of army recruitment, Mr Pindar said:

'We have the disadvantage that we actually have no wars on'.

We imagine this morning's tweet from The Independent was not quite the headline Mr Pindar was hoping for.

This morning's Financial Times reports that ministers are starting to get a bit queasy about ongoing scrutiny of private companies. 'Senior ministers', the paper reports, 'have stepped in to ensure that investigations into Serco and G4S are not too "punitive" amid concerns the outsourcing companies could be driven from Whitehall'.

This development comes on the back of claims by CBI Director General John Cridland that criticism of the companies risked undermining 'a great British export success'.

Watch the full Public Accounts Committee hearing here OR read the uncorrected transcript here, from which we have generated a Wordle.