Just as it seemed not a lot was happening, it looks like Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has forfeited any chance of one day being invited on to the Board of G4S by referring them to the Serious Fraud Office over the electronic tagging contracts dating back possibly as far as 1999.
Suspicions were raised several months ago that G4S and Serco had been 'overcharging' the MoJ in relation to tagging for some time and as a result a firm of accountants were asked to carry out a full audit and investigation. Apparently it was discovered that in some instances bills had been paid in relation to non-existent tags and for people that had died.
It seems that most unwisely G4S have thoroughly incurred the wrath of Chris Grayling by refusing to accept a follow-up audit designed to identify wrong-doing, hence the SFO referral. It should be noted that if the SFO carry out their investigation at their usual snails pace, there's a good chance of hell freezing over before the results are known.
Whilst Serco have rather more sensibly agreed to a new accountancy investigation, they have accepted that they are now unable to continue with their bidding for a new tagging contract. In addition, as they are apparently the most likely candidate to win the Yorkshire prisons contract, they have been told by the MoJ that the decision will now be delayed until the outcome of the new investigation is known.
I don't know who handles PR for G4S, but Chris Grayling is reported to be so angry that he is insisting that all contracts the company has with the MoJ will now be investigated and he is determined that they will not be bidding for any further tagging business. I'd say that their chances of winning any probation contracts were approximating to zero as a result. In the case of Serco, well they can hardly be negotiating probation contracts with an on-going investigation into dodgy tagging business, can they?
Now, whilst this is a spectacular and unfortunately-timed fiasco for the government in terms of the probation privatisation plans, with both main contenders in trouble and a really tight timetable for success, it also neatly serves to highlight the utter incompetence of the MoJ in being able to successfully manage the commissioning of services. May we now expect a little more questioning from our probation leadership and a bit less forelock-tugging?
Apparently, what made Chris Grayling really lose his cool, was when he discovered that MoJ officials had known for ages that there were 'issues' with the tagging contracts. I must say that the MoJ must be a very unhappy place to work at the present time, but you Mr Grayling are the prime author of your own misfortune.
You have chosen not to heed the House of Lords amendment designed to put a brake on these crazy privatisation plans without a proper debate in both Houses of Parliament. You have ignored sage words of advice and counsel that there must be some evidence before deliberately breaking up a fine and highly-performing public service. In the end it will be you that carries the can for this continuing omnishambles, and trying to shift the blame will not wash. When firmly ensconced in a hole, it's customary to stop digging.
PS Napo members really should seriously consider a positive indicative vote for industrial action in order to help slow down and defeat this daft and dangerous plan. If you do nothing else, use your vote.