When it was revealed that G4S and Serco had been overcharging by millions on the offender tagging contracts we were assured by Chris Grayling that they would be barred from bidding for any more contracts until a thorough investigation had been carried out (including an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office). But then, a few days after G4S were pronounced "cleared" (though not be the SFO)
they were included in the list of bidders for the probation contracts - so they must have been tendering while supposedly barred. Well, it's now clear; they were never barred in the first place. That's just one of the revelations to come out of the latest hearings of the Public Accounts Committee. As the Guardian reported on Monday, the chair of the PAC, Margaret Hodge, was shocked. The hearings continued today, and the shambles which outsourcing has become was laid bare. Two of the top civil servants in the procurement area are fairly new in the job, and have bags of experience. They were interviewed today, and said they had found that the people doing the work didn't have the skills, experience or competence for the job. There was no contract management. Applications to vary the contracts were numerous, and with one particular contract there had been so many that no one could now remember what the original contract specified. Basically (although they didn't put it like this) the companies have been running rings round the government.
There is obviously a lot more to come out about specific contracts. Right at the end Margaret Hodge reduced the G4S chap to quivering silence when she demanded to know if it was true that in the probation contracts it was specified that if the contract was terminated by either side before it was completed, the company would get the full amount of the contract. Apparently it is true - and she didn't like it.
The last Labour government started this outsourcing bonanza. When the coalition got in they didn't stop to find out whether the competence was there to do it; they just went ahead and outsourced everything that hadn't already been flogged off. And we have been paying the price.