The government's poor track record in managing private contractors bodes badly for the speed at which the Ministry of Justice is pursuing the outsourcing of its services, a damning parliamentary report says today.
The Public Accounts Committee’s 47th report, on contracting out public services to the private sector, cites several examples of contract mishandling by the MoJ.
Noting that the Cabinet Office admits that Whitehall 'has a long way to go before it has the skills required to manage contracts properly' it comments: 'This is a concern, given the speed at which some departments - such as the MoJ - are going ahead with outsourcing, despite a poor track record.’
Probation and offender rehabilitation are two significant areas the MoJ intends to outsource in the near future.
The report says it was ‘shocking’ that it took the ministry eight years to spot overcharging by G4S and Serco for the tagging of prisoners.
It also said fines of ‘a mere £2,200’ to Capita over its inadequate supply of interpreters to the court service did ‘not come close to taking into account the cost to the criminal justice system and to individuals caused by their failure to deliver’.
Margaret Hodge MP (pictured), the committee's chair, said the government must ‘urgently get its house in order.’
She said: ‘Recent scandals illustrate the failure of some contractors to live up to expected standards.’ She said these include the ‘astonishing news’ of the G4S and Serco overcharging.
The report calls for the extension of the Freedom of Information Act to include public contracts with private providers to tackle the lack of openness around government contracts.
Hodge said leading outsourcers G4S, Atos, Serco and Capita have said they are prepared to accept these measures. ‘It therefore appears that the main barriers to greater transparency lie within government itself.’