Tagging contracts to be scrutinised

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The Government is to investigate whether it overpaid two major private firms for contracts to electronically tag criminals, the Justice Secretary has announced.

Chris Grayling said the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had identified “potential issues” with billing on electronic monitoring contracts with G4S and Serco.

An independent team is to conduct an audit of information supplied to the MoJ by the two companies, as well as how the contract was run by the Government department.

Mr Grayling added that the companies have pledged to repay the department if errors were made.

He said: “I take this issue very seriously and my priority is to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent appropriately and delivers value for money.”

The issue has arisen as Mr Grayling rolls out plans that will see up to 70 per cent of probation services turned over to the private sector or charities, under what he has dubbed a “rehabilitation revolution”.

The likes of G4S and Serco will be able to bid for a wide range of payment-by-results contracts to supervise low to medium level offenders across England and Wales. The providers will be judged by reoffending rates.

Mr Grayling said: “As a result of information which has recently come to light as part of the retendering process for electronic monitoring contracts, my department has identified potential issues in relation to billing under the current contracts which were originally let in 2005.

“Working with our suppliers, we are taking immediate action to address this.

“We have asked a high-quality independent team to audit the processes and the information supplied to the department by G4S and Serco.

“The audit will also review the management of the contract by the department.

“The team will report to me as quickly as possible on their findings, and within six weeks.”