G4S head taken to task for olympic security shortcomings
LONDON – British lawmakers tore into the chief executive of the security contractor that will be unable deliver enough guards for the Olympic Games, forcing Nick Buckles today to agree that the fiasco was “a humiliating shambles for the country.”
Buckles, the chief executive of G4S, said the company should not have agreed to provide 10,400 guards for the Olympics, six days after the security giant admitted it could not do so.
“We regret signing the contract,” Buckles said under pressure from lawmakers.
The company’s failure forced the government to call in 3,500 military personnel to help.
Buckles told Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee he was surprised when he got his first indication on July 3 that his company would be unable to fulfill its contract.
The information came “completely out of the blue,” he said. He knew for certain on July 11 the company could not fulfill its contract, he said.
Hammered by committee chairman Keith Vaz over saying he was “disappointed” about the failure, Buckles first said he was “deeply disappointed” and then that he was sorry.
Labour lawmaker David Winnick then laid into Buckles, insisting several times that the snafu was “a humiliating shambles.”
Buckles finally said he could not disagree. He repeatedly tried to evade a question from lawmaker James Clappison about whether he was confident about the number of guards who would show up on the first day of the Games.
Vaz intervened again, demanding: “You can’t give Mr. Clappison the assurance he seeks?”
“I cannot,” Buckles said.
G4S has a 284 million government contract to provide security guards for the Olympic Games, but only 4,000 guards are trained and ready, says the committee, which is looking into security for the Games.
Buckles said he expected 7,000 to be ready by the time the Games begin on July 27.
The staff members were supposed to be doing tasks including venue perimeter security, such as manning X-ray machines, searching people, searching vehicles and operating closed-circuit television systems.
Home Secretary Theresa May, who is responsible for domestic security, was called to Parliament to answer questions from lawmakers on Monday after the fiasco.
She insisted that G4S actually had more than 20,000 accredited security staff members and that until last week, it appeared that they would have too many contractors rather than too few.The Home Office said yesterday that the contractor was suffering from a software problem, which meant it could not guarantee who would turn up where and whether guards had the right training.
Buckles told the Home Affairs Select Committee today his company had taken on the contract to enhance its reputation.
G4S, by its own admission, stands to lose up to 50m on the contract. But Buckles said G4S still planned to take its 57m management fee, noting: “We still expect to deliver a significant amount of staff.”††