Nick Buckles, the beleaguered Chief Executive of private security giant G4S finally quit today, following a series of cock ups. The final straw was the discovery of overcharging for security tagging contracts with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) which has cost the tax payer millions. However, G4S were simultaneously awarded contracts to build and run several prisons by the MoJ. So while Buckles departs to enjoy his taxpayer funded nest egg, G4S continues to profit at our expense.
We Outsourced Justice to G4S
In 1992, G4S became the first private contractor to run a state prison – taking over HM Prison Wolds. Since then G4S have been allowed, by successive governments, to quietly buy up large tracts of our formerly public police, security and justice sector.
It is increasingly likely that if someone commits a crime in the UK they will be arrested by a G4S provided officer, detained in a G4S cell, transported to court by a G4S van driven by G4S officers, the court will be manned by G4S security officers, they’ll be sent to a G4S prison, and released into the G4S probation service to live in a G4S run half way house.
The list of G4S infrastructure is eye watering:
G4S have been expanding their control of the police service since the mid 90’s and now manage:
30 custody suites
A national database of 30,000 former police officers & staff contracted back to cover resourcing gaps
Large portions of the forensic service
Prison and Detention
Since the early 90’s governments have contracted out the build and management of prisons to the private sector. At present, there are fourteen such prisons out of 139 prisons in the UK.
G4S pioneered the ‘Working Prison’ where inmates work a 40 hour week for next to nothing for private corporations such as engineering firm, Norpro
G4S run prison transport services & manned security.
They also design and building monitoring services and sell them back to government.
Immigration & Borders
G4S run two Immigration Removal Centres – these are effectively prisons in which to hold migrant families and individuals ahead of deportation.
G4S also run two regions of the UKBA’s COMPASS contract to provide accommodation for immigrants/asylum seekers.
7 specially designed residential children’s homes for children with severe emotional and behavioural problems.
G4S is now focusing on gaining more lucrative PFI contracts to build new prisons, as the government announces the closure of 7 existing prisons. The firm has also built up a new Offender Rehabilitation Team to make use of the government’s decision to almost fully privatise the Probation service. The government has announced it will put 70% of the service out to competitive tender – while banning the existing Probation service from competing for the contracts.
Last year, the public probation service met or exceeded all its performance targets – with victim feedback positive in 98% of cases, and in 2011 the service received the British Quality Foundation’s Gold Medal. This is a service at the top of its game. The government want to hand it over to companies like G4S, who’s performance history suggests our government is putting its ideological commitment to privatisation above its duty of care to the public.
G4S-Run Public Services – Overpriced and Prone to Catastrophe
G4S currently enjoys more than £1bn in contracts with the UK government. The Ministry of Justice, the Department of Work and Pensions, The Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office all contract out services to G4S.
The case for outsourcing these services to G4S always follows the same logic – efficiency, modernisation, higher quality services at a lower cost. Yet this is rarely, if ever, what the tax payer actually gets once the ink has dried on the contracts.
G4S won the £284m contract to secure the Games in March 2011. Later, the government was forced to call in the armed forces to secure the London 2012 games after G4S announced a huge shortfall in their required staff numbers just weeks before the event.
The Death of Jimmy Mubenga
Twenty one passengers and crew on the plane report hearing Mubenga repeatedly cry for help and that he could not breathe while several G4S guards applied aggressive methods of restraint – including pressing his head down below the level of tray on the back of the seat opposite for 10 minutes; known to carry a risk of asphyxia. Paramedics were called after Mubenga stopped breathing, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Stuart Tribelnig, the Senior Detainee Custody Officer in charge of Mubenga’s deportation is a former heavy goods driver. He became a deportation custody officer for G4S after a four-week training course in 2007. He was in charge of the other G4S security guards during Mubenga’s deportation. Whilst on trial this week he was made to read out a string of racist jokes that he had texted to fellow G4S deportation guards.
This is just the tip of the iceberg – the independent report into G4S border security guards makes shocking reading. The Home Office response to these issues was to castigate the doctors and lawyers who had brought the allegations to light, accusing them of “seeking to damage the reputation of our contractors”.
The Overcharging for Electronic Tagging
MoJ spending on electronic tagging has soared from the original £107m contract offered to G4S to £700m (including Serco) in 2012. The Ministry has appointed external auditors to unravel exactly how much overcharging has occurred, but it is already estimated to be in the millions.
Slum Asylum Housing
In 2011, G4S were awarded a £620m contract by government to provide housing for asylum seekers. G4S subcontracted this out to a network of smaller firms, and the results were disastrous. A recent Parliamentary Inquiry found that the firms has repeatedly failed to provide housing fit for human habitation.
Activist researcher John Grayson, who has supported tenants suffering these dreadful conditions to hold their slum landlords to account said:
“G4S is one of the companies responsible for what shadow minister of Immigration Chris Bryant described as ‘hideous conditions’ in asylum housing. G4S subcontractors have been exposed meting out punishment by harassing women who speak out against these conditions…. (including) Landlords abusing and punishing their tenants”
In fact, almost every service that G4S has been given to run has ended up costing us more, measured in pounds sterling or human suffering. Yet the government is determined to hand over ever more of our most critical public services into their unworthy hands.
This is Just the Beginning
So, whilst Nick Buckles wanders into retirement or another Chief Executive role somewhere, G4S are going nowhere.
A recent investigation by Cantor Fitzgerald has revealed that the total value of new services contracts (the amount of new stuff outsourced each year) handed to Ministry of Justice jumped tenfold in the last five years – rising from £8m in 2008 to £79m in 2012. This is a rapid escalation in a long standing move to outsource justice.
This follows a trend across government. Most recently, the government passed new competition regulations for the NHS which open all but a tiny number of services provided by the NHS to competitive tender with private providers. This will do the same to the NHS, as has happened in Justice – a public services brand, paid for by the taxpayer, with all profits going to private firms.
The longer the tax payer remains in a state of confused or resigned apathy, the more services are sold. At this rate, we’ll have nothing left by the time the sleeping majority wake up to the problem. So, it behoves all of us to shake off whatever excuses we have in play for not taking action on these issues and get involved. There are loads of excuses – the most common one being ‘I have my own life to be getting on with’. Well, newsflash: your life is not separate from the life of the country at large. This will impact us all, at some point. So why wait?
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