Army called upon to fill Games security shortfall
Fears G4S may even fail to meet reduced target
MP accuses firm – who were paid £284m – of letting the country down
The security firm G4S was reportedly paid a staggering £284million to provide up to 17,500 personnel for the 2012 Games.
But yesterday, in a major humiliation for company bosses and Olympic organisers, it admitted it would fall well short of the target, forcing ministers to pull in thousands of military personnel.
The company was contracted to provide a minimum of 15,400 security staff, with a target of 17,500.
Yesterday, as the Government confirmed the call-up of 3,500 extra troops, G4S claimed it would be able to bring in 13,800.
However, with 14 days to go to the Games, question marks remained whether it would meet even that target, as just a small fraction of that total is available for deployment. Only 4,000 are ‘boots on the ground’, working as ticket checkers and bag searchers at the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.
Another 9,000 are still in the training and vetting process – raising fears even the more reduced target might not be achievable.
The Armed Forces now make up the overwhelming majority of the security staff likely to be deployed during the Games.
The original plan for 7,500 military is bolstered by a special contingent of 5,000, plus the 3,500 announced on Tuesday, making a total of 16,000. In addition, there will be 3,000 unpaid volunteers.
The number of staff needed to guard the Olympic venues more than doubled last December after the organising committee Locog wildly underestimated the total required. Originally Locog contracted G4S to provide 2,000 security guards, but in December the firm agreed to increase that number massively.
Yesterday Downing Street insisted there would be financial penalties for the firm for failing to meet the contract. But Locog refused to comment on the nature of any fines, claiming it would breach commercial confidentiality. That is despite taxpayers coughing up at least £9billion for the cost of the Games.
Insiders said the company had repeatedly claimed until last week that it would meet its obligations.
A Whitehall source accused the firm of ‘abysmal’ failure and said it had delayed completing training and vetting processes to save money by not having too many staff on the books before the start of the Games.
The source said: ‘Until yesterday officials from G4S were turning up and assuring us that the figures were getting better and going to be OK.
‘Then we learn there’s not as many as we need. They didn’t want to be throwing money at the problem six months ago because their staff would be sitting around doing nothing.’
Home Secretary Theresa May was hauled to the House of Commons to try to explain the shortfall.
She insisted: ‘There is no question of Olympic security being compromised.’
But Labour MP Keith Vaz, who called for the emergency statement, said: ‘G4S has let the country down and we have literally had to send in the troops.’
Mr Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, has written to Nick Buckles, chief executive of G4S, demanding he give evidence before MPs next week.
The debacle is the latest blow to the reputation of G4S which, while relatively unknown to the public, is one of the world’s biggest security companies.
In recent years its tentacles have extended into swathes of British life which used to be the preserve of the public sector, including running prisons and police custody suites.
From headquarters in Crawley, Sussex, company bosses run a sprawling multinational company with interests in more than 125 countries.
They provide security at Heathrow and other major airports, and for vans transporting cash on behalf of banks and other financial institutions.
Under its previous name Group4Security it had a contract for transporting prisoners, but in 2004 the company ‘lost’ two prisoners, sparking a major investigation.
It runs six jails in the UK including Birmingham, where an inspection report in October 2011 said drugs were regularly being thrown over the prison walls.
Three G4S guards are on police bail over the death in October 2010 of Angolan national Jimmy Mubenga, who was restrained while being deported from the country.
By Jack Doyle
PUBLISHED: 22:39 GMT, 12 July 2012 | UPDATED: 10:30 GMT, 13 July 2012
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