Wednesday, 20 November 2013

How the PAC turned into a Pussycat with Serco and G4S

A staple of the BBC Parliament Channel is Margaret Hodge and her Public Accounts Committee skewering hapless mandarins or tax-dodging tycoons. Whether interrogating civil servants about their hopeless budgeting or BBC top brass about their perks, Mrs Hodge has proved a fearless and ferocious champion of the taxpayer.

Until that is today when the top people from G4S and Serco were among those who  turned up in Committee room 15. Judging by the bits I saw, the PAC had turned into a pussycat.    True there was a lot of mea culpa by the private companies; but having established that they had acted in ways which were by common consent totally unethical and managerially incompetent, the Committee seemed to accept without question that everything was now fixed.

They accepted SERCO’s contention that a Price Waterhouse Coopers report on the Cornwall Out of Hours scandal was inaccurate on various facts. They accepted the companies’ word that overcharging on tagging could never happen again; that they would open up their accounts; that they would answer FOI requests; and never pray in aid commercial in confidence.    They all had a jolly good laugh at the end about whether the CEO’s had been coached for the hearing. Time to move on.

One of the members let the cat out of the bag when he said that all the parties want public services to be outsourced. The argument is over. There appears to be no proper examination of the merits of the policy. The PAC would say that policy is not their remit. But their job is to look at economy, effectiveness and efficiency. They fell down on the job today.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that Rob - I have avoided following that news so far.

    Of course Margaret Hodge's Labour party did a fair bit of CJS outsourcing and put the 2007 Act in place that is enabling The Lord Chancellor to do more of it but refuse to commit to reverse any probation privatisation or even commit to not renew any contracts.

    Reports from Ian Lawrence of Napo a short while ago, suggest talks today between the Unions and employers and MOJ have not reached a point where, after previous adjournments, progress can now be made, which must be extremely unsettling for just about every one involved with probation, as the existing Probation Trusts may still be abolished by 31st March 2014, barely 5 months away.

    Andrew Hatton