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MPs on electronic monitoring of offenders ‘failure’

by Mark Rowe

Another £98m of taxpayers’ money for essential public services has been just thrown away, wasted, lost, Dame Meg Hillier, a north London Labour MP and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, complained on the PAC publication of a report on the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) new case management system, titled Gemini, for electronic monitoring of offenders.

She said: “The prison and probation service is reliant on outdated technology that is swallowing taxpayers’ money just to stand still. The existing system is at constant risk of failure – and let us be clear that in the case of tagging, “failure” can mean direct and preventable risk to the public – and attempts to transform it have failed.

“We expect a serious explanation, and a serious plan, from the MoJ and Government more widely how they are going to stop this haemorrhaging of taxpayers’ money that they are presiding over. We need assurances up front over the further £1.2 billion they have already committed to the tagging programme – what will be achieved, by when, and, crucially, what will be recovered for the public if goals aren’t met.”

The MPs complained of a high-risk and over-complicated delivery model, poor oversight of suppliers, over-ambitious timetable and ‘light-touch’ scrutiny from the Ministry. They report that the MoJ and HMPPS still do not have enough data to understand the outcomes of tagging and that police forces and the Probation Service continue to lack timely access to the high-quality data they need to monitor offenders and keep the public safe. The MoJ and HMPPS still do not know what works and for who, and whether tagging reduces reoffending.

Despite the lack of evaluation, UK Government is pressing ahead with its £1.2 billion to expand tagging to wider groups of offenders and another 10,000 people in the next three years. The Ministry claimed that terminating Gemini was the optimal value for money decision in 2021.

Background

HM Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS), as an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice, is responsible for tagging. It delivers the service through four suppliers, including Capita which runs the live service and G4S which supplies tags. As at March 2022, around 15,300 offenders were tagged. HMPPS is re-procuring contracts to run the electronic monitoring service; HMPPS intends to outsource the role of systems integrator again, something which it tried and failed to do before. The PAC has asked the MoJ how it will oversee suppliers’ work effectively and ensure clear lines of responsibility and accountability between the integrator and its other suppliers.

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