Wednesday, 2 August 2017

MoJ Screws Up Again

Regular readers will be very familiar with the contract drafting skills and business acumen of the MoJ. The poor physical condition of the prison estate is a regular feature of HMI reports and now we have an admission that the outsourcing of maintenance has gone horribly wrong, just as was predicted. This from the Times 31 July 2017:-

We got our figures wrong, admit prison bosses in £115m bungle

A bungled contract outsourcing prison maintenance will fail to make the promised £115 million savings as managers admit that they got their figures wrong.

Checks on fire equipment and CCTV as well as tests for legionella have not been carried out and broken showers have been left unrepaired for months. Watchdogs have complained for two years that the £500 million contracts to maintain jails in England and Wales were not working efficiently.

The Ministry of Justice has now said that it entered into five-year contracts with Carillion and Geo Amey without full knowledge of the costs. As a result the £115 million savings promised when the contracts were awarded in 2014 will not be met.

A statement in the annual report of the National Offender Management Service, which runs prisons and probation, said: “A contracting exercise exposed that historically the costs of maintenance and services were not clearly understood by the business and consequently planning assumptions have not held true. The contract is therefore underfunded and the declared efficiency savings reduced.”

It is the latest serious contract failure at the ministry following problems with a £3.7 billion semi-privatisation of the probation service and a £130 million tagging system for offenders which is five years behind schedule and has so far delivered no benefits.

Most of the complaints about the maintenance contracts have been about failings by Carillion which in the worst cases led to concerns about fire risks in prisons. An Independent Monitoring Board report on Pentonville prison in north London released on Friday revealed that enforcement notices were issued against the governor and Carillion after a fire in a cell where the detection system failed.

“Two prisoners went to hospital and four staff members were sick from smoke inhalation. The Crown Inspection Group said this could have been avoided if Carillion had properly maintained the equipment,” the report said.

Camilla Poulton, chairman of the monitoring board, said that “maintenance jobs both big and small have repeatedly failed to be completed in timely fashion owing to poor systems for logging and tracking jobs, and Carillion not having the right kind of contractors working on site.”

At Highpoint prison in Suffolk, an monitoring board report this month said there had been no improvement in Carillion’s performance and some statutory maintenance including “testing for legionella” and “checks on fire equipment and CCTV” were not done.

Carillion said: “Carillion has invested in additional resources and people to meet the demands of this contract. We have achieved increased levels of satisfaction which has been recognised both locally by individual prison management and in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prison reports.”

A prison service spokesman said: “Since these contracts were awarded, there have been a number of unforeseen operational changes which have directly impacted the maintenance of the estate. We are now in discussions with contractors.”


Yet again the Ministry of Justice is in the spotlight for a contract that has not delivered (Richard Ford writes).

A £130 million scheme to develop tags to monitor criminals is running five years late, the partial privatisation of the probation service has run into trouble and many prisons are in a dire state, riddled with violence and drugs. Many of the problems have been festering since 2007, when the Department for Constitutional Affairs was given responsibility for the prison and probation services and renamed the Ministry of Justice. However, as one Whitehall observer commented: “The governors, prison officer and senior prison officials only unite in their opposition to ministers wanting to do something to the prison service.”

The speed with which outsourcing and partial privatisation was conducted was risky, and even more so when it involved a prison service that had limited capacity in contractual management and which has been more concerned with the worsening jails crisis.


Stop press

The Prison Governors Association have weighed-in on the growing prison crisis, as reported this morning by the BBC:- 
Governors 'devastated' by 'complete decline of prison service'

The president of the Prison Governors Association has attacked the government's management of prisons in England and Wales. Andrea Albutt wrote an open letter after recent violence at prisons in Hertfordshire and Wiltshire. She said the unrest was causing "grave concern" - adding that governors faced "unacceptable stress and anxiety".

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said action had been taken to increase prison officer numbers. But Ms Albutt said her members had seen "nothing tangible" from the MoJ to ease population pressures in prison, and the burden on staff. She said recruitment remained in a "critical" condition, with a net increase of just 75 officers in the year 2016/17. Training was "poor" and "unsuitable people" were being selected, she added.

The BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the Prison Governors Association had "traditionally been a voice of moderation". "The criticisms are unlikely to be brushed aside," he said. 
Data released last week from the MoJ showed a rise in violence in prisons, with 26,643 assaults in the year to March 2017 - 20% more than the previous year. Of these, a record 7,159 were attacks on staff - equivalent to 20 every day. Ms Albutt went on to describe the government's decision earlier this year, to separate operational control of the prison system from responsibility for policy, as "madness".

But an MoJ spokesman said the Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) - which replaced the National Offender Management Service - would "help to create a distinct, professionalised frontline service". The spokesman added: 

"We know that our prisons have faced a number of long-standing challenges, which is why we have taken immediate action to boost prison officer numbers and have created Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service. We need to create calm and ordered environments to help ensure effective rehabilitation, and we continue to work closely with the unions and all staff to help achieve these vital reforms and make prisons places of safety and reform."
In July, the union representing prison workers called for the resignation of prisons' boss Michael Spurr. The general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, Steve Gillan, said his members had "lost patience" and accused the management of HMPPS of trying to "paper over the cracks". This followed the revelation that Mr Spurr had received a bonus of up to £20,000 in 2016-17 on top of his annual salary of around £150,000.

The bonus was "awarded" in the previous year when the chief inspector of prisons said many jails were "unacceptably violent and dangerous".


  1. Today's Guardian;

    "There has been an increase in serious crimes committed by offenders under supervision in the community since the controversial privatisation of the probation service, figures suggest. The number of offenders on probation charged with murder, manslaughter, rape and other serious violent or sexual crimes has risen by more than 25% since changes to the service in England and Wales.

    Plaid Cymru, which obtained the figures, said the trend was “extremely worrying” and called for the government to renationalise the probation service. The party also found that offenders in many parts of England and Wales are reporting to the new private-sector community rehabilitation companies (CRC), which are responsible for supervising offenders judged to be of low or medium risk, via phone call rather than in person.

    The government played down the figures, saying that since the reforms many more offenders are supervised in the community after leaving prison, which makes an accurate comparison of the before and after pictures impossible. It said reporting via phone was just one technique used by CRCs.

    According to the figures, in 2012-13 – before privatisation – 409 serious further offence reviews were triggered. By 2016-17, the number of SFOs had increased to 517.

    The figures also show that between February 2015 and the end of 2016, 46 offenders were convicted of murder while subject to supervision by a CRC. This is likely to rise as a number of other cases are still going through the legal process.

    Plaid Cymru’s justice spokesperson, the MP Liz Saville Roberts, said: “This is an extremely worrying rise in serious crime committed by people who are supposedly under supervision. These are offenders who, under the supervision of the probation service, committed murder, manslaughter, rape or another serious violent or sexual offence.

    “That the number of instances of this kind has surged by 26% since the probation service was privatised is deeply worrying. The British government needs to admit it was wrong and commit to renationalising the probation service.”

    The justice secretary, David Lidington, said last month that the privatised probation service had encountered “unforeseen challenges”.

    Saville Roberts drew attention to leaked documents, first published by the Guardian in 2013, warning that there was a more than 80% risk that the proposals introduced by the then justice secretary, Chris Grayling, would lead to “an unacceptable drop in operational performance” triggering “delivery failures and reputational damage”.

    She said: “It is astonishing that ministers are claiming the difficulties faced since privatisation were unforeseen when a leaked internal risk management document shows that they were warned.”

    Harry Fletcher, a justice campaigner and former probation worker, said: “That the justice secretary claims that problems with the sell-off of the probation service were unforeseen is astonishing. The leaked risk assessment from 2013 was damning and warned about these problems but the British government ignored it.”

    Under the changes to the service, the caseload was divided between the public sector National Probation Service – which took on higher-risk offenders – and 21 CRCs.

    A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “In 2014, we reformed our approach to probation so that for the first time ever, all offenders given a custodial sentence receive probation support and supervision on release.

    “It is therefore misleading to compare the number of Serious Further Offences prior to our reforms with subsequent figures, as the number of people on probation is now significantly higher than before.

    “A thorough investigation is always carried out when someone commits a serious further offence to see whether anything could have been done differently.”

    1. Oh my, the MoJ et al are a priceless pack of .....

      "It is therefore misleading to compare the number of Serious Further Offences prior to our reforms with subsequent figures, as the number of people on probation is now significantly higher than before."

  2. I don't know where The Times gets its 3.7 billion! semi-privatision of probation from

    1. Wasn't that the proposed 7 year total cost of the TR contracts?

  3. I wonder if not being actively supervised is related to the rise in SFOs.