G4S Olympics Failure Not Government’s Fault: Ministers

The British government wasn’t at fault over G4S Plc’s failure to supply enough security guards for the London Olympics and the security of the games won’t be compromised, ministers said.

“We of course have been monitoring the situation with G4S and their management told us right up until last week that everything was on track,” Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the minister responsible for the Olympics, told BBC television’s “Andrew Marr Show” yesterday. “We were asking the right questions.”

The government had to assign 3,500 extra soldiers to Olympic venues after G4S, the world’s largest security company, said it couldn’t meet the terms of its 284-million pound ($442 million) contract to provide 13,700 guards for the games, which start on July 27. That takes the total number of troops at the games to 17,000.

“The security required to make the Olympics safe and secure will be in place,” Defense Secretary Philip Hammond told Sky News television yesterday. “There was always going to be a very significant armed-forces component. It will now be a bit larger than we originally envisaged it being.”

Nick Buckles, the chief executive officer of Crawley, southern England-based G4S, has been summoned to testify before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee tomorrow. G4S said in a statement on July 13 it expects to lose as much as 50 million pounds on the contract.

No Bonus

Buckles, who apologized July 14 for the company’s failure, told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper he considered resigning. The CEO, who earns a base salary of 830,000 pounds a year, won’t take a bonus in 2012, according to the newspaper.

The Home Office dismissed a story in the Independent on Sunday newspaper that Home Secretary Theresa May had been sent a report 10 months ago by the police watchdog warning of concerns about G4S’s ability to provide security for the games.

“The Independent’s report is inaccurate,” the ministry said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “Only on Wednesday did G4S confirm that it was unable to meet its staffing commitment.”

While Hunt refused to condemn G4S’s failure, saying “I don’t think this is the moment for getting into the blame game,” the opposition Labour Party’s home-affairs spokeswoman, Yvette Cooper, said she would be wary of giving them another such contract.

“It is shocking what they have done,” she told BBC television’s “Politics Show” yesterday. “I think that frankly you have to have an awful lot of skepticism about their ability to deliver a contract.”

Cooper said May, who’s responsible for domestic security, has more questions to answer.

“Why on Earth did the Home Office not know what was happening?” Cooper said. “How could they possibly, two weeks before the Olympics? It is utter incompetence.”

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