Will any heads roll in the aftermath of the G4S fiasco?
Cost of London Olympics rapidly approaching sum total of Osborne’s austerity savings
I suppose, in the light of French supplier EDF bunging all that sponsorship money our way, the Olympics organisers felt it was vital to choose a British company to handle security for the Olympic Games….Britain having more snoopy security cameras than anywhere else in the world.
But perhaps a little more due diligence about the company might have been in order.
In August last year, CEO Nick Buckles (the jolly soul pictured left) admitted in a CNBC interview that the businesses in Greece and Ireland were shakey. But he purred quite a bit about his bold acquisition strategy.
As good as his word, last November, the chief executive of G4S tried to buy Danish cleaning giant ISS. Everyone from the analysts to the shareholders thought it was a daft idea. Buckles persisted, until – when faced with an extraordinary general meeting that was due to give the deal a major thumbs-down – he decided to back down rather than be humiliated.
This cost G4S more than £50m in fees for legal and financial advice. So perhaps it was that gentle air of insouciant waste that first attracted Whitehall mandarins to Buccaneering Nick Buckles. Or perhaps it was the Camerlot pols who were attracted to his ability to make vast amounts of money out of screwing up. Nick made £5.3m last year, despite dumping the firm into that costly, ill-judged takeover bid.
Nick’s basic salary was £830,000, and he also received £27,920 of perks such as a company car and private health cover. The value of his pension pot also increased by £1.6m during the year, and is now worth almost £9m in total. He received shares worth £1.1m, and was also allocated stock worth a further £1.8m that will cash in during 2014 if he hits performance targets.
As we’ve already seen in the media, Mr Buckles is more likely to hit the buffers than his targets. But one can see how a private health fan skilled in pumping up his pension pot would appeal to both the Lansleys and Sir Humphreys respectively.
Or perhaps it was Nick Buckles’ non-stop gob and flair for self-publicity that won them over.
In January last year, the Sunday Times asked Buckles what he had learned over the years, and he said he had mainly grasped the need to spend “…a lot more time on people managing and leading people than getting into the detail of the business. You prioritise what is important and don’t get too het up about day-to-day issues.” Bet he’s a tad het up at the minute.
In April this year, Nick was asked by the New Statesman to sum up his leadership style in three words. He answered, “No excuses, please.” So obviously, he won’t have any about the abject failure of his company to fulfil the Olympics contract.
In June, he told the BBC that “saving your client money can actually be a good thing”. But not, presumably, when you’ve screwed up and charged the client ten times more than the original quote. Today, our Nick cut a rather sheepish figure on Radio 4, protesting that he would lose “up to £30million” on the contract. Bless.
Well, however they were chosen, it’s all still the usual poppycock and newspaper-talk as far as London ‘Mayor’ Boris Johnson is concerned: speaking at the Olympic Park yesterday, he insisted: “Everybody is concerned to put the final nails in place – we always expected loads of military and I think they’ll do a great job. The key thing is that it’s going to be a safe and secure Games.”
So actually, “we fully expected G4S to f**k up, which was why we always had these 3,500 extras on call, and anyway we didn’t choose them – it was Locog who agreed their contract”. But for some reason, Basher Boris doesn’t seem to be able to stand up to Locog: in March, The Mayor declared that he was opposed to the G4S plan to close the Mall for the duration, and ordered the organisers back to the drawing board. Later he was forced to feebly accept that there was no room for movement “because Locog made such a mess of choosing individual venues”.
When it comes to Boris, words like piss, wind, trousers and mouth come to mind. But who Locog?
Well yes, they did hire G4S. And its security estimates quickly soared from £282million to £553million, helping to push the ballooning cost of the Olympics towards £11billion – well above the £9.3billion that the Tory Government set aside for the sporting spectacular, after Labour allowed the budget to nudge up just a little…..from £4.8bn in 2005, to around £7bn by 2009. In March this year, the Commons public Accounts Committee (PAC) he Commons Public Accounts Committee found that (Locog) needed more than twice the number of security guards than expected.
The report said Locog’s initial assessment that 10,000 guards were required was simply a ‘finger in the air’ estimate.
So why was Theresa May so surprised when the Locog-hired G4S suddenly announced it was 3,500 short last Wednesday? It seems odd, given that Tory Locog Chairman and former bumptious athlete Seb Coe is well known to Tessa and her Home Office colleagues. We cannot know: but what we can look at is the relative ‘skills’ of some prominent Locog Board Members.
The Slog will be publishing the findings of an investigation into this tomorrow: it is explosive stuff.