G4S and Serco face £50 million fraud inquiry - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

G4S and Serco face £50 million fraud inquiry

Serious Fraud Office investigates G4S claim of over-charging for government contracts

Whitehall contracts running into billions of pounds are being urgently reviewed after the Government disclosed that two major firms had charged the taxpayer to monitor non-existent electronic tags, some of which had been assigned to dead offenders.

In an announcement that throws the Coalition's privatisation drive into disarray, the Serious Fraud Office was called in to investigate G4S, the world's largest security company, over contracts dating back over a decade.

Serco, one of Britain's largest companies, also faces an inquiry by auditors over its charges for operating tagging schemes.

The firms supply an array of services to the public sector from running courts, prisons and immigration removal centres to managing welfare-to-work schemes and the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

Between them the two companies receive around £1.5bn a year from the taxpayer, but their contracts are worth billions of pounds because the vast majority run for several years.

They were also hoping to cash in on moves by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to hand them further large contracts to operate prisons and supervise offenders in the community.

The process of awarding all contracts was put on hold last night as the inquiries got underway.

The MoJ began investigating all its agreements with the two firms, including the running of major prisons, while the Cabinet Office started scrutinising all other Government contracts with G4S and Serco.

Shares in both companies fell sharply after the announcement by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary.

Shares in G4S - which suffered torrid publicity over its mishandling of the last year's London Olympics security contract - finished the day 12.6p down at 213p. Serco tumbled by 54p to 626.5p.

Each of the companies relies heavily on Britain both for income and burnishing its international reputation. The move by the Government is unlikely to result in the wholesale loss of contracts, as the firms have few competitors of the same size but is a blow to their standing worldwide.

Mr Grayling's announcement came after an audit discovered G4S and Serco had overcharged taxpayers by up to £50m, billing them for offenders who were dead, back in custody or had left the country. According to one MoJ source, the companies charged for 18,000 offenders when the actual number was around 15,000.

Mr Grayling said latest estimates suggested taxpayers had been overcharged by the companies to the tune of “low tens of millions” since the electronic monitoring contracts were signed in 2005. He also disclosed that ministry staff could have known about the practice for five years and face possible disciplinary action.

He said in a Commons statement: “The House will share my astonishment that two of the Government's biggest suppliers would seek to charge in this way.

”The House will also be surprised and disappointed to learn that staff in the Ministry of Justice were aware of the potential problem and yet did not take adequate steps to address it.“

Mr Grayling said he was asking the Serious Fraud Office to investigate the G4S contracts as the company had refused to co-operate with a further audit to rule out wrongdoing.

An investigation by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that overcharging could have dated back as far back as 1999 when earlier contracts were signed.

Serco has agreed to withdraw from the current tender process for an electronic monitoring contract worth up to £1m, while Mr Grayling plans moves to exclude G4S as it is still attempting to bid.

Serco had also been the leading bidder for prison contracts in Yorkshire, but Mr Grayling will delay their award until the fresh audit is complete.

An urgent review of contract management across the Ministry of Justice's major contracts has also been launched and will report by autumn, he said.

G4S and Serco were also among companies preparing to bid for a range of payment-by-results contracts to supervise low to medium-level offenders across England and Wales.

Ian Lawrence, general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers union, said: ”We've long maintained that these companies are unfit for purpose when it comes to holding important public contracts. The outcome of the initial investigation into G4S and Serco suggests a good deal of malpractice has been discovered.“

Ashley Almanza, the G4S group chief executive, said: ”We place the highest premium on customer service and integrity and therefore take very seriously the concerns expressed by the Ministry of Justice. We are determined to deal with these issues in a prompt and appropriate manner.“

Serco Group's chief executive, Christopher Hyman, said: ”Serco is a business led by our values and built on the strength of our reputation for integrity.

“These values lie at the heart of the many thousands of our people who are endeavouring to deliver the highest standard of service to our customers around the world. We are deeply concerned if we fall short of the standards expected of all of us.”

Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary, said: “Given the scale of the allegations, the Government must immediately call in the police and the Serious Fraud Office to investigate both companies as fraud has potentially taken place.”

Security breach: Other G4S fiascos

* G4S faced fierce criticism last year following the botched handling of its Olympics security contract. It failed to deliver the numbers of security staff it had promised and the Government was forced to bring in additional armed forces personnel. The firm will take a £70m hit over the bungled contract with Games organisers, Locog.

* Earlier this week an inquest jury ruled an Angolan man who died after being restrained by three G4S guards as he was being deported from the UK was unlawfully killed. Jimmy Mubenga, 46, died on a plane bound for Angola in October 2010. The Crown Prosecution Service said it would reconsider its decision not to bring criminal charges in the wake of the verdict.

* In January, multimillion-pound plans by three police forces to outsource services to G4S collapsed. Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, said the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Strategic Alliance had discontinued negotiations with the firm.

However, last month it was revealed Lincolnshire’s police force now spends the lowest amount per head of population on policing in England and Wales after it handed over the bulk of its back-office functions to G4S.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week