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Flawed offender-tagging programme 'catastrophic waste of public money'


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Ministry pushed on with overly complicated project without clear evidence it was needed, says committee.

Flawed offender-tagging programme 'catastrophic waste of public money'

The Ministry of Justice’s “unjustified and overly ambitious” plans to introduce new ankle tags has proved to be undeliverable, according the Public Accounts Committee.

The damning report has highlighted numerous shortcomings in the “shambolic” delivery of the new electronic monitoring programme.

In 2011 the department - run by the then justice minister Ken Clarke - launched a programme to develop a new “world-leading” ankle tag that combined radio frequency and GPS technology. The was to provide a more cost-effective alternative to custodial sentences.

However, plans so far have been fundamentally flawed and poorly delivered according to the report, with the Ministry being “startled and stunned” by the over-optimism of the original project.

The new tags, which have cost taxpayers £60million, are expected to be rolled out more than five years later than planned. The advancement of the technology has also not materialised, with it being the same as the day it launched.

The Ministry was supposed to start rolling-out the new tags from the end of 2018, but further delays have pushed it back to 2019.

The committee also criticised the MoJ for pressing ahead with the programme without sufficient research into whether it was deliverable adding a trial would have been the more sensible approach.

It added the requirements for the programme were “far too ambitious”, including the development of a bespoke tag, where they should have considered using off-the-shelf products rather than “re-inventing the wheel.”

The Serious Fraud Office also launched an investigation in 2013 after the Ministry discovered during the procurement process it had been overbilled by the existing suppliers of electronic monitoring services. This resulted in a repayment of £179 million from Serco and G4S.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Public Accounts Committee deputy chairman said: “The Ministry of Justice took an all-singing, all-dancing approach to what could have been a relatively simple procurement exercise.

“The evidence to support a wholesale transformation of the tagging system was weak at best but the Ministry pushed ahead anyway.”

He added: “The Ministry accepts it got this badly wrong but admitting its failures does not excuse an approach that disregarded fundamental principles we would expect to see applied in the spending of public money.

“It must act on lessons learned from this programme. We urge it to demonstrate a commitment to doing so by publishing details of the steps it is taking to avoid such wasteful mistakes in future.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Electronic Monitoring is a valuable tool in supervising offenders and protecting the public, but we have been clear there were a number of challenges to our expansion of the electronic monitoring programme.

"As a direct result, we fundamentally changed our approach in 2015, expanding and strengthening our commercial teams and bringing responsibility for oversight of the programme in-house.

"We are now in a strong position to continue improving confidence in the service and providing better for value for money for the taxpayer.”

Meanwhile, Rory Geoghan from the Centre of Social Justice says the Government should allow police and crime commissioners to opt out of the national tagging contract, which will allow them to allocate funds to initiate local tagging services.

He added: “While the report makes plain that officials in the Ministry of Justice squandered millions and wasted years trying to develop a GPS programme, what the report doesn’t highlight is the great work many individual police forces have quietly been doing.

“They’ve been getting on with developing their own voluntary GPS tagging programmes - demonstrating that tagging is a tool that belongs in the hands of police and probation professionals, rather than distant civil servants or outsourced contract staff.”

The government should also reverse the decision to prohibit the automatic and routine screening of recorded crimes against offender locations captured by GPS tags, according to Mr Geoghan.

“If we are serious about fighting crime and reducing recidivism, then offenders really must know that their movements will be screened against recorded crime.”

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I can't read the article. I'm guessing it's somewhere along the lines of there isn't exactly any robust punishment for breaching a tag and curfue, or if there is it takes months for us to track them down again (for the second time after they were let go).

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