Thursday, 13 March 2014

Secrets and lies

G4S is in the news again.  The outsourcing company has agreed to pay back almost £109m to the government as a settlement for its overcharging hugely on its contract to tag offenders.  It had offered £24m.  Serco, which shared the contract, has given back £70.5m.  Both companies, we're told, still face investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, and neither can bid for the flogged-off probation contracts currently out for tender.  G4S is in deep financial trouble.  But, you may say, is that it?  Is no one going to be charged with criminal offences?  After all, benefits cheats are in court very quickly.  I doubt it.  
There are several reasons why the government would not want a court case.  The relationship between people in government and those running these outsourcing companies is not the standard one of purchaser and provider; there is a much greater degree of mutual self-interest.  You don't want to put your mates in court.  These two companies in particular have been crucial to the government's exercise in creating private wealth out of public services.  And suppose there were charges.  They could plead guilty, and that would save embarrassment.  We've seen what happened, on a very, very much smaller scale with A4e.  The employees who pleaded guilty have not yet been sentenced.  That may not happen until the second batch have been tried in October.  If they plead guilty as well, we will never know the details of what they did, and what pressures or incentives they were under.  The G4S and Serco cases could follow that route, sparing the public the details of their contracts.  It wouldn't do for us to know how those contracts, and the monitoring of them, allowed the firms to overcharge on this massive scale.  If they pleaded not guilty, all that would have to come out.  The government wants this out of the way as soon as possible, and the companies back in the ring bidding for more juicy contracts.  Grayling had to cancel altogether the privatisation of a batch of prisons because the only bidders were G4S and Serco.
More secrets.  We are used to this government suppressing information if it goes against its narrative of great success in "welfare reform".  So it's no surprise to learn from Channel 4 News that it sat on a report which showed, according to independent experts appointed by the DWP, that the Work Programme isn't working.  That's hardly news, you might say.  But this report came out last September and a decision was taken to suppress it "at a ministerial level", and we know what that means.  All the things which critics said would happen, particularly "creaming and parking", are still going on.  Sanctions are not helping anything, says the report.  And the providers themselves, or 58% of them, think the WP is not helping or worse.  The DWP apparently said, "The reality is that the Work Programme is working."  That's the point at which the secrets turn into lies.
For a straightforward untruth we turn to the narrative on food banks.  The DWP has always insisted that it doesn't refer people to food banks.  There's a good reason for that.  It needs to deny that food banks have become part of the welfare state, or, indeed, that they are needed at all.  But now we have the evidence, thanks to the Guardian, that there is official guidance to jobcentres on how to give out vouchers, and one of the documents is entitled "Foodbank Referral Service".  That has now been modified; "referral" has become "signposting".  And they mustn't refer to the vouchers as vouchers.  (Orwellian newspeak is thriving at the DWP.)  There's a significant paragraph in the article: "The documents show each jobcentre is told to write down how many people have been sent to food banks on a 'slip record sheet', even though the DWP has said: 'Food banks are not part of government policy and, as such, the Department for Work and Pensions does not hold or collect information on their usage.'"
What was it David Cameron once said about being the "most transparent government ever"?


  1. The government and the DWP are lying, AGAIN! You cannot use a foodbank without a referral slip. To get this slip you have to go to the Job Centre and make an appointment with an advisor. My local foodbank is a church organisation. You can only be referred once every three months. You CANNOT just turn up and ask for food as the govt' are suggesting. How do I know this? Because I have been to one!

    BTW Historian, C4 are reporting on the failures of the Work Programme. Obviously, the DWP or as they must now be known, the Tory Party, are ignoring the report and suggest that 'the reality is it is working' i.e. the report is a lie. I mean does ANYBODY believe ANYTHING the DWP says. The fact it and the Tories and IDS refuse to accept any criticism is both childish and undermines the integrity of government and democracy.

  2. We all know, and have done for some time, that the Work Programme isn't working. So this is hardly news. It would appear that Smith and his DWP acolytes are in denial. Again this is hardly news - after all they all have form in this regard. What I find astonishing (even in a world that has become truly Kafkaesque) is that Smith has had the power to suppress the report. According to Margaret Hodge the report was not even given to the public accounts committee. I am betting that she, and some of her fellow PAC members, are more than a tad angry about this. I do hope that Smith is hauled in front of the headmistress to explain.

  3. G4S and Serco £180 Million,that is a serious amount of Taxpayers cash,even by most standards.if you catch them once,how many times have they gotten away with it? A4E have been caught,but have promised that they are policing themselves and after all it was a long time ago and a few rogue employees were responsible...Nero FIDDLED while Rome burned..After reading numerous IDS/DWP documents it is obvious who the real Villains are....The Unemployed,if they had jobs,we would not have had to steal,it was them that forced us to do this! (sarcasm)

  4. I've been reading about a project that's recruiting people to travel to Mars. The journey is only one way, and so the people who go will never come back.

    Does anybody know where I can write, to suggest that Ian Duncan-Smith be put forward for this venture?

    1. You dont want the martians annoyed at us, they may decide to invade. but then again.. maybe it would solve a few probs

  5. I remember Labour MP Frank Dobson on a BBC Radio phone in some time ago. Cannot remember the subject, but Dobson called his Tory opponent a liar. The presenter tried to take Dobson to task on this and tried to get him to tone down his language. Dobson abruptly said (or words to this effect), "Sorry, but if someone is telling bare faced lies, then I have to call him a liar".

    Well, this is how the DWP, Smith and McVey must be treated. If they cannot be trusted to tell the truth then they must be reminded of this fact at every opportunity.

    As for G4s and Serco. If they went to court a whole laundromat of dirty washing would be aired in public. Just what the DWP and the W2W sector do not want.

    It's most interesting that the suppression of this damning report has been revealed at the same time as it's revealed that the suppression of Charles Windsor's letters to government ministers has been deemed unlawful. Naturally the Attorney General Dominic Grieve says he'll appeal to keep Charles' written interference still a secret. So there we have it. Suppression of a report affecting the lives of millions simply to spare the government embarrassment. And suppression of interfering correspondence simply to spare one man Charles Windsor embarrassment.

    And this is supposed to be an open democracy? Ha!

  6. 'Loveless' households where 1 in 4 parents are unhappy with their relationships.
    Article quoted in the Telegraph (13 Mar 14) with figures supporting IDS view that
    “I firmly believe that family breakdown is a cause of poverty –.." which is something to do with the wasted half-billion£ Troubled Families Initiative and Tory policy for next general election it seems.
    I am lost for words here - he should have said of course that:
    “I firmly believe that poverty is a cause of family breakdown –.." then there's that belief syndrome again.
    He's swanning off on some new nanny state intervention when Rome burns and W2W, UC and UJM are falling apart. Probably will make children report on their parents relationship at school and sanction them if they don't abide by their marital vows!

    1. I think that's historically always been the case (divorce being less easily available, socially and financially), but in today's society there are polls to show everybody what's happening. So not necessarily poverty or anything else being the cause, just a fact of life.

  7. After visiting the JCP yesterday,I was luckily assigned to see a really nice clerk,I have seen her quite a few times in the past. After the usual stuff,I noticed she seemed upset and mentioned it "I am,I have been here for over 30 years,I have never seen it this bad,this morning we were notified that 14 staff are to be made redundant,that is 1/3 of the total front line" Sorry! "You told me Months ago about daily signings,how did you know?" Internet blogs "How are we supposed to handle it? we can barely cope now" I agreed and asked what was the point "It is about sanctions and getting the count down,the Managers won;t come out and say it,but we all know what they want"


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