Is this another case where ‘best value’ may prove to be anything but that?
Serco, the giant service supplier to public sectors across the world, has already admitted to the falsification of data on an NHS contract in south west England. On 20th September 2012 The Guardian ran a story, which we later reported here, showing that Serco had presented deliberately falsified data on the performance of an out-of-hours GP cover service it provides under a contract to the NHS Cornwall Primary Care Trust.
Today, 11th July, in the House of Commons, Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling revealed to MPs that a Justice Department Review of contracted services had uncovered a situation where two contractors, Serco and the infamous G4S, supplying electronic tagging services, had been overcharging the government by ‘tens of millions of pounds’. Mr Grayling described this as ‘unacceptable’.
The contractors has counted amongst those they were tagging – and charging for:
- people who had never been tagged because their cases had been returned to court;
- people who were in prison and therefore not tagged;
- people who had left the country;
- and, in some cases, people who were actually dead.
This over-charging had been going on for months and in some case for years.
Since Serco now has two proven cases against it for a tendency to be profitably casual with the actuality – one of these admittedly deliberate – Transport Scotland may wish to do some serious scrutisining of the basis for subsidised carryings on the Serco Northlink ferries.
Back in 2012, Transport Scotland controversially handed this contract to Serco, using a new and unfamiliar but usefully vague ‘competitive dialogue’ tendering process which saw the Scottish Government owned previous contract operator, Northlink Ferries, part of the Scottish Government owned David MacBrayne Group, unhorsed.
Northlink Ferries had a clear case for a successful Judicial Review but were forbidden by their owner – the Scottish Government – from taking such action against it.
A private sector bidder for the contract, Streamline Shipping, was not so constrained and, under its MD, Gareth Crichton, continues its legal pursuit of the Scottish Government in relation to this contract award,
Counting them on and counting them off might now be a sensible basic safeguard for Transport Scotland to consider in respect of Serco Northlink’s operations on the Orkney and Shetland ferries.
A public sector twice bitten has no excuse for a failure of precaution.