I notice that the Ministry of Justice held a ‘Probation Marketing Opportunity’ on Thursday for all those privateers interested in putting bids in, like G4S and Serco and Napo turned up to greet them. Now there are those that feel MoJ officials would have significant difficulty arranging a serious group libation in a brewing facility, let alone sorting out contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
But maybe those civil servants are a bit more canny than I give them credit for. Now I’m no expert, but I guess all negotiators want to start proceedings with as strong a hand as possible. So, what could be better than the day after you’ve done a bit of schmoozing with likely bidders, possibly involving a tincture or two, I don’t know, but then the following day you put the boot in and accuse two of the biggest potential bidders of ripping you off previously? I’d say that sends a pretty strong and clear message as to how these new negotiations are likely to pan out!
According to the Daily Telegraph:-
“The Ministry of Justice has brought in external auditors to find out how much the two companies have incorrectly claimed from the taxpayer since 2005.
Spending on electronic tagging has run to £700 million since G4S and Serco were handed the contracts but a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said it was currently impossible to say how much had been overpaid.
It is understood the sums involved run to millions of pounds.”
By an amazing coincidence, as this news broke Joe Kuipers, the outspoken chair of Avon and Somerset Probation Trust, felt moved to publish his latest thoughts on the evolving omnishambles that is probation privatisation. In particular he raises the issue of malversation.
Now the last time I got a similar tingle down my neck was upon hearing a very dry and dour public official at a press conference mention the term gerrymandering. Both allegations of what is in essence Misconduct in Public Office are about as bad as things can get. By the way for those of less mature years, the latter term was used in relation to Dame Shirley Porter when she was Leader of Westminister City Council and in relation to allegations of vote-rigging.
Anyway this is what he has to say on the topic:-
“Malversation is corruption in a public office and in the context of PbR may be linked to perverse behaviours possibly or probably reinforced by profit being the potentially primary objective of commercial enterprises. Now, I am not opposed to the contributions that can be made to the business of managing offenders in the community, but I do have concerns about commercial enterprises being in the lead, most likely as contracting is rolled out.
Is there a way this risk can be mitigated? Probably not, as there appears to be plenty of information to indicate that the ability of government both to let and monitor contracts needs considerable development.”
Who’d have thought that private contractors might try and fleece us? Now they’ve been rumbled, wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall back at G4S and Serco headquarters as they contemplate the prospect of accountants from the MoJ poring all over their books in relation to the very lucrative electronic monitoring contracts? We know they must be lucrative because it’s said similar contracts in the US are vastly cheaper. Oh round one to you Mr Grayling. Nice one!
PS I wonder who blew the whistle? Sign the No10 petition here.
Courtesy of Jim Brown at On Probation Blog