The CEO of beleaguered security company G4S blamed his "scheduling system" as he explained his company's failure to adequately secure the Olympics. Facing MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday, Nick Buckles said that the company took 100 per cent of the responsibility for the cock-up that has led to 3400 squaddies and an as yet unspecified number of police being pulled in to provide basic security cover for the Olympic Games.
Though the screw-up seems to stem from a miasma of problems at G4S starting with a badly-planned contract (Buckles says he regrets signing it), poor treatment of staff (not informed about shifts and not paid for training) and poor management all the way through the organisation, it was the scheduling software that really kickstarted the problems, said Buckles.
The beleagured biz kingpin pinned the blame on "problems with scheduling exacerbated by people not turning up for shifts."
Buckles said that he only found out about the crisis on the 3rd July:
I was phoned up on holiday and told that we've had problems with a shortfall on the contract and secondly that's partly due to the fact that our scheduling system hasn't effectively worked to roster the staff.
We did not know until very late that we would not be able to get 10,000 people on the ground ... purely because the whole process is very back ended ... It's only when you get to the end that you know where everyone is in that pipeline.
Details of that pesky software in full
Testifying next to his CEO, Ian Horseman-Sewell, Global Events Specialist, G4S explained the troublesome rostering software in greater detail:
Our scheduling system matches the demand given by our clients in fine detail - down to two people here, three people there - to our database of people who are deployable depending on their qualifications.
Then the scheduling process allocates shifts to them. People then have the option to accept that work, typically online.
Horseman-Sewell said that there were currently 5500 fully qualified people are on that database and that approximately 70% of them accepted the work when offered it. He said however that they hoped to be able to deploy 7000 over the course of the Games. In total 100,000 people applied for the jobs which have been advertised since the beginning of 2012.
The real-time nature of the platform seems to mean that G4S finds it hard to plan more than a day in advance, and is currently able to inform the police how much help they need only on the day. By the start of the Olympics Buckle said, G4S hope to know 3-5 days in advance who will be turning up for what shifts.
200 security guards? We thought you meant 38
In an example of just how this set-up is going wrong police were called in to help with a cycling event at Boxhill today. Some 200 security staff were apparently required to adequately monitor the event. The G4S rostering software had scheduled in 38 of whom 17 turned up. As a result 170 local police officers were drafted in.
Buckles failed to provide assurances that the rest of the Games would go smoothly, and besides saying that there was a serious shortfall in qualified staff, he didn't give an account of exactly why the numbers in the software were so wrong.
He said: "Our focus now is to deliver the contract, with hindsight we'll find out what went wrong".
I regret signing that contract
Buckles did say that he regretted signing the contract with the Olympic Games in the first place.
The contract to provide the 10,400 staff was signed in December 2011 and was worth £284 million. G4S estimated to make a £10m profit on the deal and then a £57 million management fee. They now estimate they will lose £30-50 million on the contract.
MPs also grilled Buckles on how much G4S would pay the police and military forces drawn in as emergency staff. They have promised to meet all costs faced by the police and armed forces.
G4S hold £600 million worth of contracts with the Home Office, including a major one with Lincolnshire Police. ®