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Lords Committee criticises Ministry of Justice’s handling of “tagging” contracts

19 April 2024

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has published a critical Report on the Ministry of Justice’s legislation to reappoint Serco and G4S to provide electronic monitoring services in England and Wales. (That is the provision of electronic “tags” for prisoners released under licence and the monitoring of them).


The report draws attention to significant omissions from the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) explanation of the proposal to the House, in particular that two of the firms appointed had been investigated by the Serious Fraud Office in connection with a previous contract for the same services. Under these previous contracts, first awarded in 2005, Serco and G4S overcharged MoJ multiple times for the same cases and for cases where the monitored person had died.  The investigation resulted in Serco being required to repay the MoJ £70.5 million and being fined £19.2 million as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. G4S were fined £38.5 million.

MoJ also failed to mention that their general approach to managing contracts for electronic monitoring services had been severely criticised by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee in 2022. That report found that avoidable mistakes by MoJ had wasted £98 million of taxpayers’ money and remedial action cost a further £9.8 million.

Lord Rowlands, Member of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, commented:

“The Ministry of Justice has granted new public contracts to these companies worth over £500 million but chose not to inform the House of its previous history with these companies.  We find that omission inexcusable. The Public Accounts Committee has expressed serious concerns about the Department’s capability to handle such contracts and MoJ’s explanations should be transparent so they are properly accountable to both the public and Parliament.

“Our Committee’s role is to make sure that the Government’s explanation of its policy is clear, so that debates are properly informed about the full background, and to draw any flaws in the explanation to attention of the House: we didn’t expect to have yet another egregious example

“While we received some additional information from the Department, the responses provided are still obscure, referring to the firms “self-cleaning” and to MoJ’s “enhanced monitoring” without explaining what that actually means. We wonder why the MoJ seems so reliant on these companies, which have been fined for misconduct.

We find it remarkable that a contract can be awarded to a company that has been investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and subject to fines for misconduct and a deferred prosecution agreement, especially given the value of these new contracts awarded. We have recommended that the House seeks more detailed answers from the Government on these matters and on how the decision to defer prosecution was made.”