British Parliament slams UK Parliament over cover-up of contracts

UK gov’t accused of contracts cover-up

Fri, 14 Mar 2014 10:44:38 GMT

A British parliament committee has slammed the government for its cover-up of lucrative contracts awarded to private companies.

On Thursday, the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said British ministers had sought to cover up mistakes by refusing to divulge details of contracts worth nearly £100 billion a year with huge private companies.

The committee criticized the Conservative-led government for handing out civil service contracts without doing prior checks, saying the government is hiding behind a “veil of secrecy” over the award of deals.

The influential committee of MPs said problems are particularly acute at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which is on the verge of collapse over privately-run operation of welfare reforms and employment programmes.

“If it’s not sorted out it will become the biggest ad for renationalizing public services,” said Margaret Hodge, the committee’s chair.

“We are in danger of creating a shadow state that is neither transparent nor accountable to parliament or the public,” she added, demanding that the coalition government put the contracts with private companies into the public arena.

The committee also referred to government’s contracts with support service companies Serco and G4S as examples of contracts that the British public deserved to know more about.

British Justice Ministry unveiled earlier that the two companies have overcharged the British government by “tens of millions of pounds” for monitoring offenders’ electronic tags.

According to the ministry, the firms had charged money in cases when individuals were back in prison, had their tags removed, left the country or who were never tagged in the first place.

They had even charged money in cases where the tagged person had died.

Private contractors are now responsible for large sectors of government services in Britain. The British government spends around £187 billion a year on goods and services, about half of which is estimated to be spent on contracting out to private and voluntary providers.

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