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3 August 2012 | Adam Leach
Security problems that have overshadowed deals for London 2012 could have been avoided by contracting the armed forces in the first instance, an academic has said.
Last month the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) announced that the armed services would provide extra troops after supplier G4S revealed more than half its guards were still being trained and vetted.
Matthew Ashton, who conducts research into defence procurement, said deciding to use forces up front would have guaranteed numbers and avoided the delay between those applying for work and starting. “G4S could only train people for a limited number of weeks or months because it wasn’t economically viable to do it over a long period of time. With the army, you know that after three months, they’re still going to be there,” said the lecturer in politics at Nottingham Trent University.
But Valentina Soria, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, who published a paper on the G4S deal last month, said the scale of modern Olympic security requirements means private sector involvement is inevitable. She added that using armed forces to fill the gap isn’t new. “In the past, Olympic manning levels have sometimes been as low as 40 per cent of need, which has forced the police and the military to fill the gap very quickly.”
G4S chief executive Nick Buckles last month told MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee that the contract meant it was not cost-effective to hire staff well in advance of the event. “In a perfect world, the contract should have been drawn up so we had all the people on board with months to go, fully trained. But the contract we signed was that you get paid on the day they turn up and you get paid for training them.”
In December 2012, G4S was contracted to provide 2,000 guards and manage a further 8,000. A year later, that rose to £23,000, with 10,000 to be provided by G4S. The security firm now expects to lose between £35-£50 million on the deal.
LOCOG would not comment on the contract, but SM understands it was able to announce the use of troops because of a back-up plan already in place.