Olympics security firm boss admits failure
The head of private security giant G4S has agreed under questioning by British lawmakers that the firm’s failure to provide enough security guards for the Olympics was “a humiliating shambles”.
Nick Buckles, chief executive of G4S, said on Tuesday he expected the company would eventually be able to supply 7,000 of the 10,000 staff it had promised. An extra 3,500 troops have already been drafted in by the British government to plug the gap.
But he insisted that he would not resign over the scandal and said that G4S, one of the world’s biggest security firms, would still claim its $88m management fee for the Olympics contract.
Asked by one member of parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee whether it was a “humiliating shambles” for G4S, with the Olympics just 10 days away, Buckles replied “I cannot disagree with you”.
He also admitted that the firm had taken on the Olympics contract to boost its reputation rather than for profit, but agreed when the committee suggested that reputation was now “in tatters”.
Amid mounting pressure for him to quit his job, Buckles insisted he was the best person to see the contract through.
The staffing shortfall only came to his attention on July 3, Buckles said, adding: “Day by day we started to realise that the pipeline and the people we thought we were going to be able to deliver we couldn’t.”
He said G4S only raised it with the government on July 11 when it was sure it would not be able to fulfil the contract.
“We have a significant manpower shortage against the plan. Clearly that shortage is going to manifest itself from this day forward until the Games,” he said.
Buckles said G4S currently had 4,200 people working and that the “minimum we can deliver” by the start of the Games on July 27 was 7,000. But when asked whether he could guarantee they would all turn up he said “I can’t, no”.
G4S shares slid 1.85 per cent in early morning trade on Tuesday, after suffering heavy falls on Monday.
It emerged Monday that in addition to the military support at least eight police forces have had to deploy extra officers at Olympic venues across Britain – reportedly after employees of G4S failed to turn up to work.
The company, which is set to lose up to $78m for failing to meet the obligations of its $443m Olympics contract, has insisted that extra police should only be needed for a few days.
Britain’s interior minister Theresa May denied on Monday that ministers knew last year that there would be a shortfall.
The extra troops pledged by the government last week brings to 17,000 the total number of military personnel lined up for Games security.
The government came under further pressure Tuesday as a report said that the Border Agency, which has been under fire in recent weeks over hours-long immigration queues at London’s Heathrow airport, has cut too many employees.
Over 1,000 staff more than initially planned have lost their jobs in the last year and the country’s border agency has now been forced to hire extra people to deal with the workload, the UK national audit office said.
The first athletes and Games visitors began arriving at Heathrow on Monday and the Olympic Village opened in Stratford, east London.
Meanwhile, nearly half of the British population believe their country is inadequately prepared for the Olympics while many have concerns over security at the Games, a poll suggested.
Of the 2,000 people questioned, 45 per cent said they felt that Britain seemed poorly prepared for the Olympics while almost 40 per cent said the fact that the government had been forced to provide extra troops made them more concerned about spectator safety.
London’s mayor Boris Johnson admitted on Tuesday that there would be “imperfections and things going wrong” in the coming weeks, adding that it was a “ginormous” task to stage the Games.