Private outsourcing company Serco is to be investigated by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, The Guardian reports. The investigation comes after the company was forced to disclose a secret internal report revealing evidence that it failed to investigate properly a claim of repeated sexual assaults by one of its staff against a female resident at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre.
The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has announced that the 'corporate renewal plan' embarked on by private security firm G4S 'represents the right direction of travel' to meet the government's expectations as a customer.
'Government spends £187 billion on goods and services with third parties each year, around half of which is estimated to be on contracted out services'. So claims a report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), published last week, on the contracting out of public services to the private sector.
'Estimated' is the operative word here, for a cloak of secrecy shrouds government contracts. As the PAC notes in its report:
A day after Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said that G4s may still be prosecuted over claims that it overcharged on electronic monitoring contracts, the company has announced via its website that it is to repay £108.9 million to the Ministry of Justice.
The company's Chief Executive, Ashley Almanza, said:
Troubled security company G4S may still face criminal prosecution over its alleged overcharging on electronic monitoring and prisoner escort contracts, The Guardian reports.
G4S and Serco are currently banned from bidding for contracts to run probation services in England and Wales. The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling reportedly said yesterday that he saw this as an opportunity to promote innovation.
A new 2,000 place prison will be built at Wrexham, giving rise to concerns that it will lead the way to more low-cost supersize prisons being built in future. Chris Grayling, the Justice Minister, has cited Oakwood as example where the £13,200 average cost to keep a prisoner is less than half that in other establishments in the prison estate.
G4S has been referred to the Serious Fraud Office for the the second time in six months, reports the Financial Times (free, but registration needed). A Ministry of Justice audit of 15 big contracts worth £3.9 billion found there were 'serious issues' on G4S management work for British courts.
The FT's Alison Smith argues 'It seems that the contractors are somewhat out of control.’
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.
It was reported last week that Capita will be taking over the Ministry of Justice electronic monitoring contracts from Serco and G4S in the new year.
Journalist Kate Belgrave offers a run down of recent press announcements and the worrying expansion of punishment to people outside of criminal justice. She speculates that private tagging companies could be looking to diversify to using the technology in the social care sector, for example with people with learning disabilities and dementia.