Barely two weeks before the ‘greatest show on earth’ starts and yet another Olympics security scare, but this time its not suspected terrorists being disrupted but a scandal linked to the company (G4S) who are playing a significant role in protecting and securing the venues.
The Government has approved the use of an additional 3,500 members of the military (bringing the military’s total involvement to 17,000 – almost a fifth of the entire Army!), across 100 Olympic venues. Home Secretary Theresa May said in a statement today:
“The government’s over-riding priority is to use all resources necessary to deliver a safe and secure Olympic Games,” she said. “The security operation has been meticulously planned. It will be the largest and most complex security operation in this country since the Second World War”
Now I’m sorry but how can it have been meticulously planned! Why didn’t G4S, LOCOG or the Government not know sooner than 2 weeks prior to the Olympics that the company which is being paid hundreds of millions is not on track to recruit the numbers of staff it is contractually obliged to delivery. G4S have said:
“We have made very significant progress – we already have around 4,000 people at work across 100 venues. We currently have over 9,000 additional people going through the final stages of the required extensive training, vetting and accreditation process”
Home Office minister James Brokenshire said that the problem about the shortfall of officers – needed to conduct physical searches, operate X-ray machines and carry out perimeter searches at the Games – first arose ‘about a fortnight ago’, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
“We’ve been monitoring progress, challenging them (G4S), asking the questions, really going down and kicking the tyres and all those things, and they have been very robust about the fact that they would deliver on the contract”
This comment is crazy, its really not rocket science. LOCOG clearly did not effectively manage G4S (the ‘tyre kicking’ took place too late), unfortunately it’s a far too regular occurrence that the ‘supplier’ manages the ‘customer’. Where were the SLA’s, gateway reviews, contract reviews, KPI’s? The dedicated ‘Securing London 2012‘ website states that the screening process alone takes up to 12 weeks, then there’s the training, acquiring an SIA license (if you don’t have one already), LOCOG accreditation etc etc. To me this suggests at least 3 months prior to today G4S knew that they were not able to supply the required number of staff.
As part of the recruitment process, G4S opened a dedicated recruitment centre in Newham, London, which it claimed had the capacity to process 400 applications a day, but applications mean nothing, any job advertisement receives at least 10 rubbish ones (I mean unsuitable) for each suitable one and unfortunately at security officer level this ratio can significantly change for the worse. Bearing in mind that the majority of applicants were non security professionals, I say this as the majority of people in a security job would not leave that job for a short term contract until September.
Only in January this year did G4S report it had already received applications from more than 20,000 people for jobs at the Games, a number which it said is above expectations for this stage of the process…..but sorry it again means nothing, how many of these didn’t even meet the basic screening requirements i.e. couldn’t speak English or failed a CRB check? I suggest based on the recent news it was a very high percentage.
G4S is being paid £284 million to supply 10,400 security officers (the majority of which will have little or no previous security experience), last year LOCOG announced that they needed more than twice as many security personnel to secure the venues than it had initially planned—raising the number to 23,700 (with military personnel and volunteers making up the deficit) and increasing the government budget on venue security to £553 million from £282 million. Why did LOCOG put all its eggs in one basket surely some of the other venues across the country could have been supplied security officers by a number of different companies, rather then relying on one company to supply all 10,400 officers…..where was the resilience…..well clearly there wasn’t any, apart from calling in thousands more of our highly trained military personnel.
So who’s fault is it? G4S will be penalised financially (I think it is £50,000 a day per venue) for breach of contract but I actually don’t think they are solely to blame, the issue should have been picked up earlier. It was clearly a risk that LOCOG were not effectively testing , monitoring or managing.
The good news is that the Games will be safe and secure, the shortfall of G4S security officers will be replaced by soldiers (a big bonus in my eyes), yes it will appear to be over militarisation (maybe now not so ‘blue’ games as the Police previously expected) but hey at least they will be safe and secure, the spotlight will be on us and lets hope London 2012 is successful for all involved.
So what’s next, well how about privatising the UK’s Police force’s with G4S staff …………………….or maybe not! Public Sector 1 Private Sector 0