Prison contract awarded amid tagging scandal

HMP Northumberland at Acklington.
HMP Northumberland at Acklington.

The contract to run a north Northumberland prison has been awarded, amid a scandal over possible fraud by two of the other bidders.

Last week, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced that the contract to run HMP Northumberland at Acklington has been awarded to Sodexo, following revelations that the other preferred bidders, G4S and Serco, are being investigated for possible fraud over the operation of electronic tagging schemes.

Sodexo, a French multi-national company whose UK arm employs 35,000 people, operates in offices, schools, prisons, hospitals, military bases and hospitality events.

MP Sir Alan Beith said: “I am appalled by the situation which has been uncovered at two of the Government’s biggest contractors in the criminal justice system.

“I have been warning for some time that the Ministry of Justice’s contracts management is wholly inadequate.

“I am obviously disappointed that the public-sector bid to run HMP Northumberland was not considered in the final stages, but the company which has won the contract, Sodexo, is not involved in any way with the electronic-tagging issue. This has been a very worrying time for prison staff and they now need to be given a clear indication of how their interests will be safeguarded.”

In May, the Gazette reported that Justice ministers had delayed the outsourcing of the prison because of an investigation into mismanagement in contracts with private-security companies which provide tagging.

The winning bidder for the privatisation of the prison, which encompasses HMP Acklington and Castington, was due to be announced at the end of that month, but the decision was put on hold as an inquiry, into whether two private companies have been overpaid, was carried out.