Probation Service suppliers deny contract failure claims

5 April 2011

5 April 2011 | Lindsay Clark

Suppliers have hit back at union reports that services contracts are failing the Probation Service’s buildings estate in England and Wales.

Last month, the National Association ofProbation Officers (NAPO) published a dossier that said centralised deals for the purchase of food, maintenance and cleaning for probation premises has resulted in expensive catering, delays to repair and contractors travelling hundreds of miles (rather than using local suppliers).

It also claimed £15 million had been spent over the past five years employing staff to liaise with the suppliers or by probation trusts paying for jobs to be completed themselves.

Suppliers have, however, denied the claim that these contracts represent poor value for money.

Atkins runs a 24-hour accommodation helpdesk and IT platform for the Probation Service estate. “This involves the handling of calls, the provision of an asset management system and a works approval and instruction process to the service’s contractors,” a spokesman for the supplier said. “We are meeting our obligations under this contract.”

A spokeswoman for Amey, which carries out or subcontracts maintenance work, said: “Amey has worked with the Ministry of Justice to deliver facilities management services for several years, which has helped to generate £18 million of efficiency savings.

“We will investigate the very small number of relevant claims made against Amey. During the period chosen by NAPO, we dealt with approximately 33,000 work orders.”

A spokesman for Interserve, another contractor cited in the report, said it had also contributed to the £18 million savings. “The incidents relating to Interserve raised in the NAPO report represent a very small fraction of the work we undertake for the ministry.

“It is worth noting that we would bear the cost ourselves of any extensive travel needed to fulfil our service commitments – one of the ways in which the contract represents good value for the taxpayer.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the maintenance contracts were handled within a regional structure that ensured the relevant facilities management contractor is sent to deal with work as quickly as possible.

“The allegation that £15 million has been wasted on essential maintenance across the estate is not true,” he said.

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