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“Avoidable” mistakes in tagging programme “wasted £98 million of taxpayers’ money”

21 October 2022

In a report the Public Accounts Committee says a “high-risk and over-complicated delivery model, poor oversight of suppliers, overambitious timetable and light-touch scrutiny from the Ministry of Justice” all contributed to the failure of a new case management system for electronic monitoring of offenders which has “cost taxpayers dear”.

The Committee says “avoidable mistakes” wasted £98 million of taxpayers’ money and left the tagging service “reliant on legacy systems that needed urgent remedial action, costing a further £9.8 million”. 

Even after this, the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS still “do not know what works and for who, and whether tagging reduces reoffending”. Despite the lack of knowledge and evaluation, government is pressing ahead with a £1.2 billion programme to expand tagging to another 10,000 people in the next three years.

Given the “long history of poor performance in this area” the Committee is “unconvinced” that the MoJ is equipped to handle emerging problems and will continue to monitor the “serious risks” that remain for the expansion of tagging and the need to procure new contracts by early 2024.

Chair's comments

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

“The prison and probation service is reliant on outdated technology that is swallowing taxpayers’ money just to stand still. The existing system is at constant risk of failure – and let us be clear that in the case of tagging, “failure” can mean direct and preventable risk to the public – and attempts to transform it have failed.

The incredible scale of waste and loss in the Government’s Covid response should in no way inure us to this: that’s another hundred million pounds of taxpayers’ money for essential public services just thrown away, wasted, lost. We expect a serious explanation, and a serious plan, from the MoJ and Government more widely how they are going to stop this haemorrhaging of taxpayers’ money that they are presiding over. We need assurances up front over the further £1.2 billion they have already committed to the tagging programme – what will be achieved, by when, and, crucially, what will be recovered for the public if goals aren’t met.”

Image: Ministry of Justice