Tag Archives: Serco

#LevellingUp or #ToryCorruption ? Serco-employed test and trace managers take £1.5m per year

Not the NHS: Boris Johnson privatised the Covid-19 test and trace system, believing it would be a great advert for privatisation. Instead, it has become a millstone around his neck – so he refers to it constantly as “NHS test and trace” in the hope that people will blame the nationalised health service that has nothing to do with it.

The Serco Test and Trace scandal gets worse and worse; it has just been revealed that some employees receive £7,360 per day to pretend to find people with Covid-19 and trace their contacts.

That’s the equivalent of £1.5 million a year. These are people from companies with strong connections to the Conservative government, that won their contracts via an emergency system which avoids the normal tendering process.

And it has already been established that most contact tracing personnel spend their time playing computer games because they are not being given work to do.

City AM says,

Sky, citing leaked documents, reported that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has paid BCG around £10m. That was for a team of 40 consultants to work for four months on test and trace.

BCG’s “day rates” for public sector work – which determine the cost of its service – range from £2,400 to £7,360 for its most senior employees.

The report said BCG is giving the government a 10 to 15 per cent discount. Although this would still equate to day rates equivalent to around £1.5m a year.

BCG declined to comment.

Sky also said that 165 more consultants had been hired to work on test and trace. They include 84 from Deloitte, 31 from EY and 50 from KPMG.

So much for Boris Johnson’s claim that he was “levelling up” the UK. Tory friends are being paid millions in public money while those who desperately need it are being starved.

While ministerial salaries are being frozen, all MPs are getting a pay rise of £3,300 per year – equivalent to around two-thirds of the current annual rate of Universal Credit for an adult aged over 25.

The lowest MP salary will be £85,291 per year. Compare that with nurses on £24,000. Who does the more important job?

What about care workers, who receive an excruciatingly-low £18,553 per year. Who does the more important job?

The Durham-based family of Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings have been excused from paying £30,000 in backdated council tax on houses they built without planning permission 18 years ago – while child poverty in the Durham North constituency has rocketed by nine per cent – to total one-third of all children living there – in the last four years… after housing costs were taken into account,

The social media are seething with discontent:

I think the following three tweets put the current situation in a nutshell, using the current northern lockdown as an example of Tory corruption at its worst. First, let’s set the scene:

Now we can go into details with this excellent speech by Labour MP Dan Carden:

Lastly, let’s remember that there was an alternative – but people were steered away from it by liars in the mainstream media who shilled for the corrupt Tories instead. Now what, do you think, encouraged them to do that?

Source: Government paying test and trace consultants equivalent of £1.5m salary : CityAM

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Weekend Covid-19 infections leap to biggest ever figure after Dido Harding’s cowboys miss 16,000

The number of – recorded – Covid-19 infections in the UK leapt up massively over the weekend after it was admitted that Dido Harding and her mob at Serco Test And Trace failed to report nearly 16,000 between September 25 and October 2.

The 15,841 cases were then added to Saturday’s (October 3) and Sunday’s (October 4) figures to give (fabricated) totals for those days of 12,872 cases and 22,961 respectively.

And we were upset when the totals leapt to 6,000!

Cynically, the government left it to Public Health England – the nationalised NHS organisation – to report the failings, presumably in the hope that it would take all the blame before it fades out of existence to be replaced by a privatised “National Institute of Health Protection” run by… Dido Harding.

The writing is on the wall, and it says, “Abandon hope, all ye who trust in these.”

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth tried to pin the fiasco on Death Secretary Matt Hancock, who does indeed have overall responsibility: “This is shambolic and people across the country will be understandably alarmed.

“Matt Hancock should come to the House of Commons on Monday to explain what on earth has happened, what impact it has had on our ability to contain this virus and what he plans to do to fix test and trace.”

But members of the public on Twitter weren’t going to let the person most directly responsible off the hook.

Here’s how this latest Tory disaster was reported there:

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey was wheeled onto BBC Breakfast to defend the government and made a complete hash of it:

And Sky News revealed that bosses at Public Health England are not willing to accept the blame for Baroness Harding’s blunders:

They needn’t worry; we all know the score:

Yes, Tory incompetence costs lives.

But people weren’t willing to let Labour off the hook either.

After some Labour MPs finally dragged themselves into the real world by referring to the track and trace system as being run by Serco (after weeks of going along with the Tory lie that it was an NHS project), the public had this to say:

They’re not wrong.

We need better than this – from both sides of the House of Commons – or the Covid-19 disaster will be an apocalypse for the UK.

And I think that is a forlorn hope: they’re already doing the pathetic best they can.

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‘NHS’ contact tracer app DOESN’T come from Serco or harvest data. Johnson’s lies confused us

For once, it seems This Site is having to do a u-turn!

Information has come into my possession – some of it from very rude people on Twitter! – that the new contact-tracing app for smartphones hasn’t been developed by Serco after all.

It has yet to be proved that the incompetent outsourcing giant has nothing at all to do with it – the Department for Health and Social Care has not released the names of every organisation that worked on it.

But the headline, according to Wired, is that

The app has been developed by the NHS and NHSX, the innovation arm of the health service, under the direction of the DHSC. Software firms Zuhlke Engineering and Pivotal have been involved in the development though NHSX has not published a full list of companies who have worked on the app.

This raises an awkward question:

What has Serco been doing that required £12 billion?

As far as privacy is concerned, I misread Jim Killock’s tweets. He was saying that, while the smartphone app keeps your information private in an acceptable way, people who don’t have a smartphone and cannot – or will not – use it are in danger of having their data harvested because of the traditional ways in which it is recorded.

He’s saying you hand your details in to people at the location where your case is handled, with no safeguards or guarantees on it at all.

And he’s saying we have no idea whether privacy issues at Serco have been fixed – or how bad they are.

This Site is happy to apologise for the confusion.

The fact that there was confusion over this simply highlights the incompetence of the Conservative government in hiring untrustworthy private contractors to do a job requiring confidentiality in the first place.

It has created an atmosphere of distrust in which the default position is an expectation of betrayal; I wasn’t the only one who made the mistake.

And the mistake over Serco’s involvement in the smartphone app can be directly traced to our performing monkey prime minister Boris Johnson and his insistence on mislabelling the Serco test and trace fiasco as belonging to the NHS.

Now that there is an NHS app, will he start referring to the Serco shambles by its proper name?

I think not.

So the confusion will continue and it seems people will be put off the UK’s contact tracing schemes as a whole because of it.

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Value for money? Serco contact tracer app cost £12,000 per person and harvests your data

CORRECTION: It seems the NHS contact tracer app wasn’t developed by Serco and won’t harvest your data. See this article for further details. I’m leaving the piece below on the site as an example of the mistakes that can happen when a prime minister lies – Boris Johnson has repeatedly claimed that the Serco test and trace business belonged to the NHS, so when an NHS contact tracer came along, we all automatically accepted that it was run by Serco, and subject to the same privacy issues as the Serco system.

The BBC is reporting that a million people have downloaded the Covid-19 contact tracing app developed by the private money-grubbers at Serco.

At the same time, we have learned that Rishi Sunak has handed over another £2 billion to Serco for its test-and-trace… work… bringing the total up to £12 billion.

So, that’s a cost of £12,000 per user (so far).

Here’s what it’s supposed to do:

NHS Covid-19 instructs users to self-isolate for 14 days if it detects they were nearby someone who has the virus.
It also has a check-in scanner to alert owners if a venue they have visited is found to be an outbreak hotspot.

First, let’s get something straight. It’s being called the NHS contact tracing app. Is it really being run by the National Health Service?

Bad news, Mike…

So it’s a money pit for corporate beasts.

Is the price right? Well..

And does it do what it’s supposed to do – and nothing else?

Oh dear.

But there is a bright side:

That’s the bright side. You’ve got to really want to see it.

So! If you haven’t done it already, are you looking forward to downloading the app?

Source: NHS Covid-19 app: One million downloads of contact tracer for England and Wales – BBC News

For once, Johnson was right – it takes ‘world-beating’ incompetence to screw up the health service mid-pandemic crisis

Matt Hancock: one look in those eyes and you know nobody’s home.

Matt Hancock has secured his position in the top rank of Tory chumps alongside Boris ‘holibobs’ Johnson, Chris ‘failing’ Grayling and Gavin ‘algorithm’ Williamson – by announcing a huge reorganisation of the health service in the middle of a health crisis.

He’s handing control of the UK’s response to pandemic threats over to a new ‘agency’ that will partner the government with private firms, even though every single partnership with private businesses over the handling of Covid-19 has resulted in failure and chaos.

Hancock seems to think he can hide the facts by denying them, hence his comment that partnering up with corporate giants is “the best way through”.

He actually said: “We couldn’t have expanded testing in the way that we did.” That system failed.

He actually said: “We couldn’t have expanded contact tracing in the way that we did.” That system failed.

But he was right in this: “The truth is we couldn’t have done this without the private sector.”

He is right – in that the private sector should take equal responsibility with the government that employed it for causing the preventable deaths of nearly 70,000 UK citizens.

Because believe me, that is the sum total of all that has been achieved by the Conservative government in its Covid-19 strategy that involved partnership with the private sector.

Expert advice is that closing Public Health England and replacing it with a privatised lash-up is a “major misstep”.

Nigel Edwards, the chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, [said]: “The government risks making a major misstep by dismantling its own public health agency at such a crucial time, creating a huge distraction for staff who should be dedicating themselves to the next stage of the pandemic.

“There is no clear argument as to why this rebranding and reshuffling will solve some of the problems highlighted by the secretary of state today.”

It is certain to cause huge distraction – at a time when that’s the last thing the health service needs:

Independent SAGE, the independent group of scientists providing advice about the Covid-19 pandemic, offered its own opinion here:

This is particularly telling [bolding mine]:

“Independent SAGE does not agree with the course that the government appears to be taking and is concerned that it will further destroy the confidence of public health staff. The changes are of such magnitude and importance that they should be the subject of close parliamentary scrutiny. However, if the government makes a decision to proceed down this path Independent SAGE advises as follows:

Any new organisation needs to be operating under trained, qualified and experienced public-health leadership.

So why the hell has he put his good friend, former jockey Dido Harding, in the job?

Why did she get the job? I think Carole Cadwallader has an inkling:

If that looks like corruption to you, you’re unlikely to be alone!

What a good thing the government has measures in place to prevent corruption from happening.

Take a look! Oh dear…

Last word in this article can go to Melanie Melvin, who puts this whole affair in perspective. We could have had a proper response to Covid-19 if we’d had a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn – but too many right-wing cuckoos had worked themselves into the party and did too much damage to his reputation for that to happen.

That is why Matt Hancock is health secretary now. It’s why he has been able to dismantle even more of the public health service and replace it with private asset-strippers – under a blatant lie that the best-working part of the UK’s Covid-19 tragedy was these profiteers and their blithering incompetence.

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Public Health England to be axed as Matt Hancock desperately blame-shifts

Matt Hancock: he was a Covid-19 super-spreader so it should be no surprise that the private organisation he wants to create, replacing Public Health England, is likely to do nothing to prevent the resurgence of the disease across the UK.

Failed Health Secretary Matt Hancock is set to scrap Public Health England (PHE) this week, we’re told, in an attempt to blame somebody else for his failure to control Covid-19 in the UK.

The trouble is, he’s planning to replace it with something worse.

Public Health England, as an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care, exists to protect the general health and well-being of English people – in any circumstance. But Hancock wants to replace it with an organisation dedicated only to handling pandemic threats.

And he plans to do this by merging the pandemic response work of PHE with Serco Test and Trace – the privatised ‘test and trace’ system that has already proved itself to be a humiliating failure for the government, and for its plans to privatise NHS services.

What a fiasco.

It means that Hancock is planning to replace a system that he has decided has failed with something that we all know is a failure, for the sake of the Tories’ Holy Grail of NHS privatisation.

And the devil take public health and safety.

Let us also remember that, as a wholly-owned executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care, PHE’s failure are entirely the responsibility of one man: Matt Hancock. It seems he is hoping that he can hide his incompetence by dissolving the organisation that contains the evidence.

It doesn’t work that way. The evidence is already public knowledge. Take a look at this article if you need to be convinced.

And we all know where the blame lies:

It’s true. The BMJ article (link above) states that public health funding has fallen by 25 per cent per person in the last five years alone.

Worse still, the rumour mill has it that the new, privatised organisation that will be tasked with protecting us from pandemic infections (but only if it can make a profit from doing it, of course) will be headed by another failure: Dido Harding:

This may be another example of Tories giving jobs to their friends, rather than to anybody who actually knows what they are doing:

It’s interesting also to take note of the fellow-travellers who have sprung up to support Hancock’s plan. These are Tory propagandists who should never be trusted on any subject at all.

Here’s an obvious example: Julia Hartley-Doodah.

Rest assured that nothing good will come of this. Hancock will not succeed in shifting the blame away from himself; his decision can only result in more infections and deaths as Serco continues to take our money while failing to do anything to prevent Covid-19 infections from spreading.

We know this is the wrong decision and it will only worsen a Tory-engineered national disaster.

But there is nothing we can do to prevent it. We lost that opportunity on December 13, 2019.

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Does failure of SERCO test-and-trace mean EVERY privatised Covid-19 project has failed?

Can you think of any Covid-19-related contracts the Johnson government has handed to private firms, that have actually succeeded?

I can’t.

They’ve all been spectacular failures, and this is just the latest:

Marcus is right about these private failures being hidden behind the NHS logo to make the public service look bad.

But the UK media won’t stop doing it because the UK media is complicit in the plan to privatise the NHS.

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Disgraced private companies could be handed powers of arrest by disgraceful Tory administration

Let’s not get hysterical just yet – the proposal is to give private companies like G4S and Serco the power to arrest people who fail to pay fines imposed by the courts.

And we don’t know whether it will be approved yet. The consultation period, launched in August, has only just ended. It lasted less than two months, which seems a very short time period for such a plan.

No powers would be taken from police. The idea is to privatise more civil service jobs – nearly 200 of them, in a deal that would be worth £290 million.

Here’s the catch: The Conservatives seem to think it would be a good idea to award the contracts to G4S and Serco. Both companies have proved themselves a dead loss to the state on many previous occasions – most notoriously with the electronic “tagging” scandal, which made criminals of both companies.

We may hope that the Conservatives have the good sense to avoid putting powers of arrest into the hands of such unscrupulous creatures.

But the recent developments concerning former HSBC director and BBC Trust chief Rona Fairhead suggest otherwise.

If we’re lucky, the Tories will shoot themselves in the foot once too often and any privatisation will never go through.

If we’re unlucky, it’ll be another privatisation for Labour to undo, when they return to office and start to bring the UK back into some kind of order.

Let us hope it doesn’t go that far.


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Capita – another nail in the coffin of government outsourcing

150211Capita-logo

How much more corruption must the British taxpayer underwrite?

The latest private firm to face allegations that it took huge amounts of public money and used it corruptly is Capita.

That’s right – the outsourcing giant whose government contracts include taking over the Work Capability Assessment from discredited Atos in some parts of the UK, is facing an investigation into allegations that it used a major government contract to short-change small companies, resulting in some going out of business.

Capita took a minimum 20 per cent cut of the value of all contracts to administer a £250 million civil service training scheme, in a project hailed as a model of how to open up the public sector to small businesses and provide better value to the taxpayer.

But 12 companies involved in the scheme have now teamed up to demand that the Cabinet Office and the National Audit Office launch an investigation into Capita.

If it is found guilty, the company will join a roll-call of shame that includes PricewaterhouseCoopers (helping clients avoid tax while advising the Treasury on its policy to tackle tax avoidance), G4S (failure to provide security for London 2012, criminal tagging fraud), Serco (criminal tagging fraud) and A4e, if anybody can remember that far back.

To its shame, it seems the Coalition Government is still employing all of these companies.

Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said allegations against Capita included claims that firms had gone out of business due to late payments and government departments had been charged more for services than they were under previous arrangements.

“David Cameron promised the Government would pay small business suppliers within five days, yet his failure to act continues to damage our economy,” she said.

“Labour will shine a light on government outsourcing by ensuring firms delivering Government contracts comply with freedom of information requests.

“We will also back small businesses struggling under the Tories by cutting and then freezing business rates.

“And we have put forward a clear plan to tackle the scandal of late payment, ensuring late payers automatically pay interest to their suppliers, and outlawing bad payment practices such as firms being asked to pay for the right to be a supplier.”

That all seems good – and bolsters Labour’s claim to be good for business – but…

In order to make good on its FoI promise, Labour will have to strengthen the law to prevent contractor firms ducking requests in the same way that – for example – the Department for Work and Pensions is currently ducking demands to reveal the number of benefit claimants who have died since November 2011 – the DWP says it already has plans to publish the information, but on an unspecified date that keeps getting pushed further and further into the future.

Any business rate freeze must take notice of local conditions to ensure that no part of the UK is disadvantaged. At the moment there’s a postcode lottery, with businesses based in the most lucrative areas gaining an instant advantage. A blanket freeze would maintain that advantage, rather than levelling the field.

Also late payment controls must be robust enough to prevent firms from finding loopholes in order to delay.

In other words, while the broad strokes are good, the devil’s in the detail.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Coalition is warned off ‘quasi-monopoly’ firms

Bad choices: This infographic (from the Daily Mail's 'This Is Money' column) shows the effect on Serco of its involvement in overcharging for tagging prisoners.

Bad choices: This infographic (from the Daily Mail’s ‘This Is Money’ column) shows the effect on Serco of its involvement in overcharging for tagging criminals.

The government should be less reliant on a handful of “quasi-monopoly” private sector contractors like Serco and G4S in future, if it has any sense – according to the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee.

Isn’t it a shame that we already know the Coalition Government doesn’t have any sense – the committee’s report said as much when it criticised government departments for continuing to hand work over to the named companies while they were being investigated for overcharging.

We can bank on the Coalition awarding further contracts to these big firms, too.

The Public Accounts Committee said in its report that there needed to be more competition in the £90bn market for private outsourcing of public services.

Some might say that public services should not be performed by private contractors at all, but it seems there is a logic to it. Why create a government department for cleaning services when you can hire an existing firm more economically?

This seems to be the way the PAC is thinking, as MPs said contracts should be split up to give small and medium-sized firms a better chance of getting business – and to prevent a situation where a handful of firms were “too important to fail” despite questions about their performance (a clear reference to the financial crisis, in which the government had to use public funds to shore up “too big to fail” banks).

Government departments trust contractors too much and rely too heavily on their information, the PAC stated. This clearly provides opportunities for corruption – in a country where PricewaterhouseCoopers can provide advisors to both the government’s Mark Hoban and the opposition’s Rachel Reeves, one is inexorably drawn to the conclusion that the firm’s advice will be to its own advantage and that of its clients – not the nation’s.

But the committee said the government should be taking a much harder line on firms whose “ethical standards have been found wanting” and criticised departments including the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and HM Revenue & Customs for continuing to award them additional work while a criminal inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office into overcharging was continuing.

141210G4S

It said the electronic tagging contracts were not isolated cases, with two other G4S contracts with the MoJ having been referred to the SFO while another Serco contract with the MoJ was being investigated by the City of London Police.

In response, the Cabinet Office said changes made to the government’s procurement and commercial management since the last general election in 2010 had brought savings of £5.4 billion last year, indicating clearly that ministers don’t understand the problem.

There is no point in saving money if the job is not being done properly!

A spokesman told the BBC: “Our action over the past year shows how seriously we take breaches of those high standards.”

Not very seriously at all, then.

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