The great Olympic security guarding fiasco - what should the Government learn from this whole episode about who it outsources to?

Shergroup - A Company with History and Heritage at its Heart No-one can have failed to notice that the provision of security guarding and stewarding services for the London 2012 Olympic Games has degenerated into a bit of a farce over recent weeks.

Less than 3 weeks from the Games, the security provider charged with providing these services had to front up and admit they were about 9,000 personnel short of the numbers they need to meet their obligations, despite constant previous assurances that all was well and everything would be alright on the night, and that they would not be able to make up that shortfall before the Games actually began.

As a result, the armed forces, which were already providing several thousand members of the military to provide security at a number of Games venues and in our major cities, had to be asked to provide another 3,500 people to carry out security services at the Games - and it is possible that another 2,000 may have been called upon by the time the Games actually take place. It was estimated that the total number of service personnel that could be on security duty at the Games could total as much as 20,000 – about 10% of the entire strength of the UK's armed forces.

In the meantime, the contracted supplier are likely to be docked a substantial chunk of the money they were to be paid for providing security services to the Games - although they seem to be adamant about keeping their management fees.

And whilst the shortfall of security guards remained stubbornly in place, people were calling the phone-ins in great numbers, saying - "I've done the training, I'm on the lists, the providers said they'd be in touch with me if I was needed, I've heard nothing from them."

To put it mildly, it all became a bit of a mess. So where should the finger of blame be pointed?

Shergroup says on behalf of all the other security operators in the UK accredited to SIA-ACS standard and who could row in and help - it is a pity that once again HM Government has gone for a BIG BOY when it comes to outsourcing a key function, and that company has spectacularly failed to deliver. This is a trend that Government seems to be following in many areas of public life and it is massive mistake. When the public sector outsource to the private sector, it should be using the innovation and ingenuity of the best private sector operators - it should not sucked in by the biggest brand, for exactly the reasons we are now seeing. This is a project that was clearly too big for one operator to cope with, no matter how big they are, and now it has become clear that even an operation as big as G4S cannot deliver on its promises.

Instead a better strategy for HM Government and those responsible for buying in security for the Games would have been to look at all the operators in the industry - in the security world there are over 7000 security companies - and set out a framework on how they could all be drafted in to help. Perhaps G4S, the police or the army could have coordinated the overall operation - but think how many companies could have helped in fulfilling the requirements of providing security for such a massive operation as the Olympic Games and made the overall operation a great success?

The regulatory regime the Government has put in place for the security industry means the likelihood of a number of firms falling over is a far smaller risk than the risk of what we are seeing now and it is sincerely to be hoped that the Government learns from this. The attitude seems to be one of 'let's just make sure it's off my desk and passed on to a big operator and let's cross our fingers and hope it will be OK'. That is not good enough. Government should be more sophisticated in its approach to using the private sector and be using these sorts of opportunities for the benefit of more private operators who come up to snuff.

The same thing is of course happening in another of Shergroup's key divisions - enforcement - where the Government continues to engage with one or two preferred operators in the enforcement field - with appalling results - and ignores the approaches and advice of anyone else. Now the word on the street is that these operators can't cope with what they have been given - and yet HMCTS appears to be moving ahead with plans to put all its enforcement and collection processes and procedures in the hands of one company via a tendering process to take place later in the year!

The result of this fiasco has got to be a new approach to outsourcing by the Government. Outsourcing is not necessarily a bad thing - in fact in many ways it is a very good thing. But it has to be appropriate services that are outsourced and it has to be done in the right way. Don't just go for the big boys who promise the earth and cannot deliver. Look at using a wider number of small providers who can offer better quality and customer service and who are more flexible and able to cope with changing circumstances and fluctuating demands.

In fact - they should look at people like Shergroup!

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