The sorry saga of private companies taking over our public services and ripping off taxpayers to the tune of millions of pounds is being played out in Parliament this week.
G4S boss Ashley Almanza told the Commons public accounts committee that the company failed to “tell the difference between right and wrong” – a serious understatement when you consider that the Serious Fraud Office has opened criminal investigations into G4S and Serco.
The companies are being investigated over allegations that they overcharged the government for tagging offenders who in some cases were back in prison, overseas or even dead.
An apology from Mr Almanza hardly covers it when you consider the absolute catalogue of catastrophes the company has been embroiled in and the millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money wasted.
Money that could and should have been spent on saving the public services that people so desperately need.
How many more millions will be wasted by failing contractors before the government starts hearing the alarm bells and calls for a wider review of the use of outsourcing in public services?
Recent contract failings have led to a growing number of local authorities taking the decision to bring privatised services back in-house.
The Association for Public Sector Excellence identified 52 examples of councils bringing services back in-house between 2009 and 2011 and that trend is continuing.
We know that the same multinational companies are lining up to take over probation services and any other parts of the public sector that the government wants to off-load.
I say that if it is proved that a private company has acted fraudulently, failed to deliver for and cheated taxpayers, they should be barred from bidding for contracts in the future.
This deterrent would be one way of reining in greed and mismanagement.