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The G4S Whistleblower

National Newspaper - July 2013

G4S Whistleblower Nigel Mills contacted us after the Government announced it had launched a full investigation into the security firm after it was alleged that millions of pounds had been over-billed.
Mr Mills had reported concerns about G4S to the National Audit Office who had then raised the issue with the Ministry of Justice which in turn launched an investigation.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced to the House of Commons that G4S and Serco could owe the Government tens of millions of pounds as a result of over-billing for electronic tags that had not actually been fitted to criminals.
Although Mr Mills was delighted by the Government action, he felt that there were other concerns about G4S that had been ignored.
Our publicist Jonathan Hartley represented Mr Mills and his story was told in two news features in the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror.
We have also found Mr Mills legal representation for his upcoming employment tribunal.
Read the full story here:
The REAL tagging scandal: G4S whistleblower paid £9 an hour to monitor convicts reveals how criminals are roaming free because of security firm blunders

Nigel Mills accused the Justice Secretary of failing to grasp scale of crisis
He says that faulty equipment means that the firm cannot track offenders
Innocent offenders were 'returned to jail for breaches that did not happen'
Employees took shortcuts to avoid calling convicts who had breached curfew Thousands of tagged criminals are roaming free or being wrongly returned to prison because a security firm – funded by the taxpayer – is  failing to monitor them, a whistleblower says today.

Nigel Mills, 45, claims that G4S is putting the safety of the public – and offenders – at risk by relying on faulty equipment that cannot keep track of convicts. 

He also accuses the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, of failing to grasp the scale of the crisis at the company, which faces an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over claims it charged for tags that did not exist.

The Cabinet Office is to review all other G4S contracts after claims it was billing the taxpayer for tracking the movements of offenders who have moved abroad, returned to prison or even died.

G4S came under fire last year after failing to deliver enough security officers for the Olympics and last week faced fresh claims it and private firm Serco overcharged the taxpayer by up to £50 million.

Today we can disclose that the crisis followed a complaint from Mr Mills, a former part-time employee at the firm for seven years.

But Mr Mills, an A-level maths teacher from Manchester, claims that a far more serious problem has been overlooked – that the security firm’s tagging system does not work. 

In a disturbing account of the working practices at G4S’s control centre in Manchester, Mr Mills alleges:

The state of the company’s equipment makes it impossible to monitor a tagged person’s movements properly.
Equipment failures allow tagged offenders to escape the authorities unnoticed – but also incorrectly identify when breaches have taken place.
Innocent ex-prisoners have been returned to jail for breaches of their curfew that did not take place.
Employees used computer shortcuts to avoid calling offenders who had apparently breached curfews.
Multiple requests were made for tagging orders for a single criminal which could cost taxpayers millions.

Mr Mills wrote to the National Audit Office last March, detailing how he thinks the company was being mismanaged. 

Numerous interviews took place and, on May 3, he received a letter thanking him for his information and revealing a joint investigation into his allegations had been launched with the Ministry of Justice.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Mr Mills said: ‘When I joined, I thought the system was designed to keep  people safe – those on tags and the  public – but it doesn’t take very long to realise that G4S’s first priority is  to maximise its income.

‘Chris Grayling wants to maintain confidence in tagging because there’s so many people in prison and he doesn’t want to put any more pressure on the system. 

'He wants to focus on the accounting, but he needs to look at root and branch reform.’ 

Mr Mills fears that tagging equipment failures could lead to some dangerous criminals being allowed to roam free.

He said: ‘I don’t know what proportion of those tagged are genuinely a threat. Some are just a nuisance and some are quite sad cases.

‘But there are others who are on early release from prison. We don’t know what their original offence was.

‘It’s worrying as you don’t know what type of person that is. When a person’s not monitored, it’s usually because of faulty kit – and it’s pot luck who that happens to.’

Mr Mills joined the company in February 2005 as a care control officer. He was head of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at a further education college in Manchester – a post he still holds.  

He had just separated from his wife, and took on the extra work to help bring up their four children. His job was to monitor people on tags, report any breaches of their curfew and keep their files accurate and up to date.   However, he claims he experienced routine problems with the system.  Mr Mills says: ‘Because they recycled the tagging kit, it would break down. 

The batteries would run out and on our system that would suggest they had broken the curfew.

‘People would be home – but showing on our system as absent.

‘In the first year, I got a call from a probation officer to say a police officer had turned up at the home where she worked. 

She said: “You’ve sent this police officer round to return this guy to jail and I swear to you, on my life, he has not been out. 

'He’s 64, released from prison and has been sitting in the loft, reading books.” I  realised what had happened.’

He claims the police officer was told the ex-prisoner had breached the terms of his release – even though G4S knew the battery had simply broken down.

Mr Mills said: ‘[The man] was on our system [but] it said he had been missing for three days. I spoke to my shift manager and said, “It looks like this tag’s died.” She said, “Oh yeah, the battery’s dead.” She was blasé about it; it happened so much.

‘It comes down to public protection. By the same token, if that guy had been genuinely missing for three days, we wouldn’t have known. He could have been anywhere.’

Mr Mills, who was paid £8.97 an hour, alleges the company failed to check equipment because it would cost them money. 

He claims: ‘You could tell when a battery was running down because people would go in and out of range all the time.  

‘Yet when I reported it, they didn’t want to know. The company is only paid a fee for the installation of the tag and the decommissioning. 

 'When I joined, I thought the system was designed to keep  people safe – those on tags and the  public – but it doesn’t take very long to realise that G4S’s first priority is to maximise its income.'

'They also get a daily fee for monitoring us but they don’t get anything for visits in the field.

‘There was pressure on us not to request visits. When you did make a request, day after day, they’d ignore it. All G4S care about is putting the tags on and taking them off. 

'The fact they end up not monitored doesn’t matter to them at all. They were desperate and always have been desperate not to draw any undue concern about the reliability of the evidence the kit produces.’ Electronic tagging is a lucrative business. In the 15 years since it was introduced, the number of people on a tag at any one time now exceeds 35,000. 

G4S is responsible for 15,000 of these, but the Coalition has announced it expects the number of persons tagged in the community to rise to 180,000 by 2015.

According to official figures, G4S was paid £62.3 million in the year 2011/12 for tagging and that was excluding payments by the UK Border Agency. 

If the Coalition goes ahead with its plans to expand the tagging system, the overall value of the contracts will exceed £1 billion.

Unlike rival company, Serco, which is also facing a fraud investigation, G4S has declined to hand over its records or withdraw from the next generation of tagging contracts.   
 G4S is the world’s largest private security firm and also holds Government contracts running prisons, immigration and border controls and welfare-to-work programmes. 

Mr Mills said: ‘I’m a public service worker, a teacher, so this was a real eye-opener for me. As far as I can see, they only care about money. 

'Manchester was the control centre for every single person on a tag provided by G4S. That was 14,000 people when I left. In my section, which was a mixture of full and part-time staff, there were only 30 people but sometimes there were only nine.’

Mr Mills claims that the understaffing meant they were forced to resort to other measures to improve performance and keep to the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of their contract. 
‘I described what was going on at the control centre – the way they only did the bare minimum – and asked them to look at the kit which I believe means we can’t do our job. How can we monitor people if we can’t trust what’s on our screens?’

He claimed: ‘When someone goes out of range, or breaches their curfew, it is called an event. One of the KPIs was that we had to begin processing each event within 20 minutes. 

'This meant calling the person, checking where they were and noting down the reasons for the violation for that person’s record.

‘When I started working there, there was one manager and he sat there all night at his computer, poking a few keys as if he was playing space invaders. 

'What I later learnt was that there were shortcut keys – if you hit F4 and F7, it would automatically go on to that person’s record that you had called them but they didn’t answer.

‘I’ve been to court many times as an expert witness on the part of G4S knowing – or at least suspecting – the log is a whole load of F4s and F7s. 

'I suspect less than 25 per cent of the calls on the logs were genuine. Do the maths. You have 15 to 20 people on a shift and thousands of people to investigate. 

'Each conversation takes about five minutes, sometimes more. You couldn’t possibly have spoken to all those people.’ Mr Mills, who warned the company last July that he did not believe its systems were working, was eventually dismissed last October.

He is taking G4S to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal, due to be heard next month. Last March he also contacted the National Audit Office, believing there were more serious issues at stake than his own gripes against the company.

He said: ‘I wrote to them with a report of the things I thought were wrong. I told them to compare the outgoing calls to the incoming as this should show that – thanks to the F4 and F7 shortcuts – they wouldn’t match up.

‘I described what was going on at the control centre – the way they only did the bare minimum – and asked them to look at the kit which I believe means we can’t do our job. How can we monitor people if we can’t trust what’s on our screens?’

The Audit Office requested a conference call and, according to Mr Mills, it was a chance remark that really sparked their interest.

He claims: ‘I was giving them examples of corrupt practice and I mentioned how, during the summer holidays, I did more day shifts.

‘In the summer of 2011, I was trained to put records on to the system. The court would send a fax or a PDF of the court order with the details of the case, reference numbers, and the type of tagging. It’s effectively like a bill of sale.

‘One day a guy had three offences taken into consideration at the same hearing. I put them on the system as a single item – because you can only get one tag. 

'They employ someone to check what you’re feeding in. I was told I’d done it wrongly, that I should put it in three times. So there were three live records for three tags but we were only monitoring one.

‘It happened a lot. One court might sentence a person to one thing and another to something else. It’s the same person but they go down as two records. This can happen four or five times.’ 

Mr Mills hadn’t believed this to be the key issue. He said: ‘I thought there was fraud on a number of fronts – on the KPIs, the misprocessing of F4s and F7s, the potential miscarriages of justice – but this was the thing they were clearly interested in and it sent them investigating down another avenue. ‘They went away for a week and said, we’re going ahead with a Price Waterhouse, Coopers audit.’

The director wrote to Mr Mills and confirmed they are investigating his allegations that the equipment used by G4S is faulty, saying: ‘I raised your concerns with Ministry of Justice officials at a senior level... We have jointly agreed a way forward and we currently have a team in place investigating’.

Mr Mills had no idea of the effect his revelations would have. 

He says: ‘I know G4S would say I’m just a disgruntled employee but the Audit Office are taking me seriously. It raises an important issue at the heart of our system with private companies running public services.’

A spokesman for the National Audit Office said: ‘I can confirm that we are going to be doing some work on the Government’s management of suppliers.’

A spokesman for G4S said: ‘Mr Mills has made a number of baseless allegations since he was dismissed for gross misconduct due to the falsification of records, serious negligence and breach of procedures last year.

‘These allegations have been investigated as part of the audit being carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, with which we are co-operating fully.’

The Ministry of Justice insisted last night the issues identified by the audit team relate to billing – and not to public safety.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: ‘These outrageous revelations demand a full police inquiry.’