Electronic tagging procurement is ‘flawed’

24 September 2012

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24 September 2012 | Anna Reynolds

The current procurement system for electronic tagging is outdated and costing taxpayers millions of pounds, according to a report by think tank Policy Exchange.

The future of corrections revealed that since tagging offenders was first introduced in the UK in 1989, there have been three private sector suppliers managing the regime, with little competition from other providers and no direct input from the police or probation officers.

Last year, the Ministry of Justice spent over £116 million on electronic monitoring, while the Home Office oversaw a contract giving sole responsibility for service delivery to two providers, Serco and G4S.

Over the past 13 years, £963 million of taxpayers’ money has been paid to outsourced service providers. The report described this as a “flawed policy” that has led to a lack of innovation in technology and poor value for the taxpayer. Furthermore, it found, the majority of criminals wearing tags are confined to night-time curfews that do little to prevent them from reoffending during the day.

Out of 26 police forces surveyed across England and Wales and 18 probation trusts, more than 90 per cent of respondents felt there was a need for a reformed tagging system in the UK to manage offenders.

In the US, tags have become more advanced, fitted with GPS enabling the police to pin point someone’s exact location at all times. The report claims that if the system had been handed over to the police and probation service to fit and monitor the tags, as in the US, £883 million could have been saved over the past 13 years.

The report called for greater police influence to advise on how best to prevent and detect crime. It also recommended devolving powers to locally elected police and crime commissioners to decide on how much money should be spent on tagging and who should provide the services. Finally, it addressed the need for a market in which suppliers and customers have more freedom to design and develop contracts that address local needs.

In response to the report, justice secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement: "New contracts for electronic monitoring services are due to come into effect in April 2013, allowing us to improve delivery and introduce the most sophisticated and advanced technology in the world. They will also represent better value for taxpayers. The call for a smarter, more integrated approach that takes advantage of the latest technology is very much in line with the government's initiatives in reducing re-offending and protecting the public."

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