Olympics Security – the blame game starts

The whole Olympics programme has been in the main remarkably successful so far.  But Security now looks to be the first major cock-up of the Games. As 3,500 army personnel, some just back from tours of duty in Afghanistan, are told they can’t take leave and have to spend weeks billeted in school halls, all so they can search handbags at the Velodrome, something has clearly gone very wrong.

So what lies behind this? The Home Office must bear some responsibility, as their initial forecasts were way short of the numbers it appear will be needed.  Apparently it was when they started doing role-play exercises last summer that they realised more security people would be needed than expected – over 20,000 rather than 10,000.

Can I have a look in your handbag, Madam?

It then appears that G4S, who had won the contract to manage security, said they would be able to provide the additional resource. But as the Games have got closer, more doubt has emerged as to whether they really can. So now the Army have been called in, and again the Home Office is getting flack for not escalating the issue earlier.

I have heard one story that there may be some issues around the contract and the payment mechanisms for the additional recruitment and training of staff. So there’s an interesting  question as to whether G4S have actually been unable to find the staff in time, or whether the commercial incentives haven’t been there for them to do that? It certainly doesn’t look like a shining example of contract and supplier management anyway.  And will there actually be any financial comeback? From what I’ve read, it looks like it will just be the lost potential revenue from the (non-existent) guards for the firm, rather than any actual penalty payments.

Of course, when we hear the whole story from the G4S side, we may get a different view of matters..

So, getting to the really important issues. There goes LOCOG’s chance of sweeping the board at this year’s CIPS Supply Management Awards. And on the positive side, and while it’s far too early to allocate blame for the Olympics situation, it might also make the Police Forces (Herts, Beds, Cambridge) who are considering awarding major outsourcing contracts to G4S, without any competitive process, (on the back of the unproven Lincolnshire Police contract), stop and think. Please.

Voices (10)

  1. Final Furlong:

    They’ve had years to focus on this – and an unlimited budget.
    Importantly, the vast majority of the proposed workforce employees (and temps) are not qualified security experts but ‘stewards’ “this way madam…”.
    Woeful demand management.

  2. Ian Heptinstall:

    Peter, I hope you feel an FOI coming on over this?

    I trust G4S werent chosen purely on low bid price – given the nature of this spend category? If so, then I assume they did some price & cost analysis of the bid prices? I wonder if they assumed that G4S would be employing £8.50/hour “children”. Even a generalist like me knows a key issue with staff agencies is where they get the people from.

    I see the papers are also claiming G4S’s civilian-staff management fee has increased from £7M to £60M. Since I assume they never planned on only having 2,500 security staff, it would be interesting to see the contractual basis of such an increase. And what they did for the extra £53M

  3. Dan:

    Timing would be problematic – you don’t want to recruit and train the staff too early, or otherwise there’s nothing for them to guard. It looks like they’ve tried to recruit and train the staff in time for the event, but found out they don’t have the necessary infrastructure to pull it off.

    If G4S were under the impression that they would be able to do it, and only realised the scale of the work required at the last minute, then assurances given to LOCOG would only be worth so much…

    As soon as it was realised that security would be double what was originally envisaged, LOCOG should have highlighted this as a supply chain risk and put in place contingency measures themselves, rather than rely purely on the assurances of the prime contractor.

  4. Paul Crean:

    Yes, TimByA may well be right re. his comment on lack of contract management and performance monitoring and this is on BOTH sides!

  5. Paul Crean:

    It would be interesting to see the contract with G4S!!
    What guarantees did they give at the tendering stage that they would have suffient resources etc…!

  6. Ian Heptinstall:

    Timing problem? Maybe too many students want to go off round the world in the summer?

  7. TimBya:

    As Peter says, a total lack of contract management, performance monitoring, assurance and just general good governance. Surely there must have been a pipeline in which you put raw recruits for them to be turned into trained security staff. You count them in, measure their progress and count them out on completion. Shortages, blockages, rejections should all be picked up in the process so at any point in time you should know whether you are on target..
    Shame of G4S for such a poor show and shame on the Government team for not noticing.

  8. Watcher of the Skies:

    Train wreck.

  9. VegasChild:

    And wasn’t a shortage ot trained security staff identified right from the start. I thought an early deal was put in place by the procurement team to train and certify new security staff up as a result rather than wait for the inevitable problem. Or am I dreaming again?

  10. Final Furlong:

    What happened to the heavyweight procurement chap who was brought in from the private (insurance) sector by LOCOG to manage the high profile/risk security contracts?

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