Sometimes, when reading the Guardian, I am reminded of the old aphorism; You must know your enemy in order to defeat him.
Before and during Hitler’s rise to power in 1920’s & 1930’s Germany, his power base was bolstered by his formation of the SturmAbteilung (SA); virtually his private army. Formed of mercenaries, former soldiers, and member of the Freikorps, they performed many duties with which the early Nazis didn’t wish to soil their hands. They persecuted Jews, formed bands and beat up political opponents, with blockades of universities against ‘undesirables’ such as Jews a speciality. They became very powerful, too powerful for the German Generals who now saw that Hitler was the coming ‘leader’; but they resisted accepting and working with him until Hitler accepted that one private Army was one too many. Hitler then organised the ‘Night of the Long Knives’; detaining and executing the top levels of the SA, and decimating the middle rank and file.
When one reads of huge Companies making ever larger profits out of doing work for the Public; for doing work which should be, or used to be done by the Civil Service; we should examine their history, and see if their history (good or bad) has had any effect upon the value of further Contacts awarded to that Company: and more importantly why they were awarded the contracts after screwing up so badly.
Group 4 (G4S) has been handed a tender worth a conservative £290 millions, which would allow it to arrest and detain people who have not paid their Court fines, making it the first private Company whose employees will be given the power of detention by the State. Remember, these guys; G4S employees are not trained and Sworn officers, such as the Police are, they are civilians, just like you and I; they hold only allegiance to one entity, the Company which pays them.
So, let us have a look at the truly remarkable record of this truly massive Company, of its ‘highpoints’ and, correspondingly, ‘Lows and utter failures’; if only for the sake of balance and a standoff viewpoint of how this major Company continues to get Government Contracts despite screwing up things so majestically.
The highpoints (as listed and advertised):-
- Made and making a huge profit,
- Large numbers of employees (well, some of the time, in certain areas)
- High Profile
The ‘Lowpoints and utter failures’
Charging the Prison Service £millions for ‘phantom’ tagging and security hardware and software, inclusive of charging for people who were either back in prison; or dead. Tagged prisoners cut them off, and G4S only has their home address, so they simply don’t go home. It undermines the entire remand process; Everything, the curfews, the tracking, it’s all meaningless. But it’s not financially meaningless – G4S is still getting paid.
G4S wins the contract providing security for the Olympics, at a price of £284 millions. As was proven, they were so useless at the recruitment, training and placement that the British Army, Royal Navy and R.A.F. had to step in, providing 3,500 and more fit, smart, educated and professionally trained replacements for the low-grade excuses placed forward by G4S. They (G4S) were, however, still paid one hell of a lot of cash for failure!
Australian G4S personnel, employed by GSL, a G4S subsidiary, killed an Aborigine being transported in the back of a panel van which was so dilapidated that even the ‘panic’ button didn’t work. Aboriginal elder Mr Ward, was literally ‘cooked to death’ while being transported more than 220 miles across searing Goldfields to Kalgoorlie in a badly maintained van with faulty air conditioning in January 2008. G4S attempted to place the blame on the two G4S employees alone, but the reports indicate a company-wide failure to respond to deficits in maintenance, training or even ‘searches for common humanity’.
One of the Government’s ‘preferred bidders’ for contracts to house vulnerable asylum seekers is the multinational security companies — G4S — best known for immigration prisons, forcible deportations and failings in their duty of care to vulnerable people.
Jimmy Mubenga was an asylum-seeker; he came to the UK illegally, breaking the Law. He was scheduled to be deported by air, but because he was ‘noisy’, he was literally pinned down after being seated and restrained; and because the G4S guards wanted a quiet time; they killed him. Now I’m all for getting rid of these guys back to their own pit, but even I reckon that’s just a trifle heavy! The G4S guys were all found ‘not guilty’ of manslaughter: I just wonder how barbaric you have to act in order to get convicted these days?
G4S runs (if that is a suitably pejorative term, which I doubt!) HMP Birmingham Prison. It has just suffered the total take-over and riot over four wings of the prison itself; with order only being restored by the insertion of ten Tornado teams (specially-trained riot suppression teams, fully equipped with personal protection gear), along with 25 riot Police; and the subsequent transfer of over four hundred prisoners. Prisoners destroyed their files, and generally ran amok. The only movement towards attacking other Wings of the prison; with which I could perhaps sympathise with and perhaps understand, was a determined effort to gain access to G wing, which houses suspected and convicted sex offenders: Prison being perhaps the ONLY Government-approved facility which has a determinedly ‘old-fashioned’ attitude towards abusers of children and women. (Again, I would state that that is only my opinion, and should not be a precursor of, or even approval of; violence towards any particular sector of society.) One sex-offender prisoner stated “The others have been trying to get in here. We’re terrified.” My own opinion, again: “Now you perhaps know how your victims felt!”
Again, in HMP Birmingham, when it was still named Winson Prison; shortly after G4S took over; they managed to loose ALL the high-security keys for the entire prison, and the entire prison had to be re-supplied with new locks and keys at a cost of £0.5 million or more.
The search for G4S failings goes on, and on; but I have not enough space for them all, as I would like OoL readers to concentrate on the main reasons, and the only real question, which puzzles me, and should also puzzle all who query how our worlds, large and small, are actually run. The question? Very simple, and straightforward! How are they (G4S) getting away with it? How come, in the midst, and the aftermath, of all of these high-profile failings, are they awarded, time after time; major contracts from Government and major local councils, days after the seriously-bad publicity about the manner in which this huge company conducts its tendered and legally-binding contracts? How is it that, after Ministers state, in public, that their actions and attitudes are simply atrocious; they are awarded ever more lucrative contracts; for work which has been done in the past, by civil servants working for either Government or large councils?
I must, because I always remember that I am a guest on James’s blog; be remindful of the Laws on Libel; but the question remains: how are they always able to brush off failures, time and time again, and arise like some grisly Phoenix, crispy but triumphant, from the ashes of their latest failure? Have they some extremely-high-placed secret saviour, who will wave his or her magic wand, and spirit away the bad news; whilst at the same time making the brown envelope disappear? I face the same peril as everyone else when it comes to accusations of wrongdoing, but it seems to me, and to others as well, that G4S has skated past some serious infringements of Contract law without so much as a whistle; and that sort of thing just does not happen without a smidgen of special pleading or even; heaven forfend, backhanders in those same brown envelopes as appeared in Parliament all those years ago!
Whether in Parliament, or in even higher places, something stinks to high heaven, and I firmly believe that those in power should accept that this Company has done serious wrong, and is in receipt of protection over and above that normally given to an outfit which has been given as many chances as G4S has; and which appears to have squandered all those same chances!
As for my first paragraphs, detailing the rise and fall of the SturmAbteilung when they had served their purpose; just remember this: G4S is tendering for a British Government Contract which WILL give them powers of arrest and detention; the first time ever in British history for a private company. Given their own history, it is indeed a tiny difference from the SturmAbteilung’s approach to ‘Democratic Values’ to the appearance of Britain’s first Private Army (as approved by Her Majesty’s Government; on the grounds of cost and efficiency alone!)