Report on tagging contracts makes 'grim reading'

12 Jul 2017

We have described the Ministry of Justice’s handling of electronic tagging as a “textbook case of an outsourcing disaster” in light of criticism by the government’s spending watchdog.

A National Audit Office report, ‘The new generation electronic monitoring programme’, published today lays bare failings in the department that have led to a five-year delay.

The analysis details poor planning and contract management, and outlines a catalogue of errors and disagreements between the MoJ and contractors.

It says the MoJ “has so far failed to achieve value for money” and has pursued “an overly ambitious strategy that was not grounded in evidence”.

A stated aim to “encourage innovation by attracting smaller companies” is not reflected by the reality of how the MoJ worked with such firms, and its recent decision to reappoint G4S after previously ditching the firm after the overbilling scandal that emerged in 2013.

There are still not enough staff managing the project and the NAO notes it “remains to be seen whether the Ministry can maintain the required posts given its wider financial and resource constraints”.

The department is now using a contract model judged by the Cabinet Office to be the “least bad” option, the auditors say.

These failings in contract management raise serious questions about the MoJ's wider privatisation plans in prisons and the enforcement of courts fines.

Our general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This report makes grim reading and, after a catalogue of errors spanning years, it is clear the saga is far from over and significant risks remain.

“This has been a textbook case of an outsourcing disaster showing the very serious problems that can arise when profit is put before public service, and the MoJ should now halt plans for further privatisation of the justice system.”

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