London 2012: G4S 'only knew eight days ago' of shortage


G4S Security boss Nick Buckles: "We are very, very disappointed and embarrassed"

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Senior managers at G4S only realised "eight or nine days ago" that they could not provide enough security guards for the London Olympics, the company's chief executive has said.

Nick Buckles told the BBC that problems in the recruitment and deployment process were only recently identified.

G4S will lose between £30m-£50m on the contract, which is worth about £280m.

Shadow minister Dame Tessa Jowell said the "integrity and resilience" of the security plan must be established.

Mr Buckles, who reportedly earns £1.2m per year in salary and bonuses, said the company accepted it had "underestimated the task of supplying staff to the Olympics".

"We deeply regret that and we are deeply disappointed. It was a daunting task to supply that number of staff in a short timescale.

"I began to know it was going wrong eight or nine days ago. Basically we are recruiting a large number of people and they are all working through a process of interview, two or three different degrees of training, licensing and accreditation.

"It is only when you get closer to the Games, you realise that the number is not as high as you expect," Mr Buckles added.


Theresa May said she only found out G4S couldn't deliver the goods last Wednesday. The firm's chief executive said he discovered how bad things were nine days ago. So there were six days when he knew but the home secretary didn't.

That's despite daily meetings between the security firm, the Home Office and Locog, the committee charged with making the Games happen.

The BBC's been told senior level meetings, to discuss security, have been taking place for three weeks. The minister with responsibility, James Brokenshire, has been attending. G4S told the BBC it had always given Home Office officials and ministers "total visibility" about what it was doing, as part of a "transparent process".

Yet the home secretary, and presumably her minister James Brokenshire, didn't know about the failure to recruit until Wednesday.

At the start of last week, Mrs May told Parliament she was confident their partners would deliver.

Labour is urging her to update the Commons saying there are serious questions about the level of oversight. One party source said if ministers were relying solely on what G4S were telling them then that was "just being a patsy".

G4S signed the contract with Locog in 2010 to supply 2,000 security staff to work at Olympic venues.

In December 2011, the Games organisers asked the company to provide some 8,000 more, bringing the total to approximately 10,000 staff.

The value of the contract is about £284m. The company has predicted costs will reach approximately £330m, and estimated loses in the region of £30m-£50m.

Allowing for attrition - reduction in numbers due to factors such as sickness and no-shows - the company had to recruit nearly 14,000 people in total.

About 110,000 people applied for security jobs, and 50,000 were interviewed.

Mr Buckles confirmed on Saturday that 4,000 staff were "ready to go", having been trained and vetted, and received uniforms and instructions about their job.

A further 9,000 applicants were "in the process of being scheduled", meaning they had been trained and have security clearance, but did not have deployment information.

Mr Buckles described the recruitment process as "very complex", with applicants having to be "screened, SIA (Security Industry Authority) trained and licensed, role specific trained and accredited by the Home Office".

He would not confirm exactly what penalty the government was imposing on the company for failing to fulfil the contract. But he estimated the figure would be about £10m-£20m.

'Integrity and resilence'

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has summoned G4S, two government departments and 2012 organiser Locog to answer questions in September.

Start Quote

We are very very grateful to the military for providing this support... We are grateful that they are giving up time with family to help us.”

End Quote Nick Buckles Chief executive, G4S

Mr Buckles has been asked to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee next week.

Dame Tessa Jowell, the shadow minister for the Olympics, said a review into security at the Games should wait until after the event has finished.

She said the breakdown in security planning had been identified and remedied "in a way that the public can have confidence in."

But she added: "The focus now has got to be on nailing this down and ensuring the integrity and resilience of the security plan."

Elsewhere Clint Elliott, chief executive of the National Association of Retired Police Officers, said reports G4S asked his organisation to assist were wrong.

He said: "It is astonishing that G4S can't have recruited these people in a time of high unemployment and at a time when many police officers are being forced to retire early and are actively looking for work.

"G4S claim they contacted us but they never did. What G4S tend to do is rely on the old boys network and word of mouth to recruit people from our organisation - which is okay for small numbers but for 10,000 people you really need something a bit more substantial."

A spokeswoman for G4S confirmed it had not contacted the NARPO. Instead she said it had been directly contacting retired officers whose details were already on its own database.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

Meanwhile, G4S has confirmed all security personnel working at the Games are fluent English speakers.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Buckles said he was "pretty sure" the staff could speak English well "but I cannot say categorically as I sit here today".

The company has agreed to pay for the deployment of 3,500 extra military personnel, to plug the gap in security staff.

Mr Buckles added: "We are very, very grateful to the military for providing this support. To the individuals we are grateful that they are giving up time with family to come and help us.

"Together we will provide a safe and secure Games."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    Oh what a circus! Oh what a show! The people responsible for this particular debacle couldn't organise a trip to the midden. Don't cry for me Mount Olympus, the truth they've really conned us. You let down your people LOCOG you were supposed to have had the answers. Not much to ask for- for £ ???pounds- but in the end you could not deliver. Thats a pretty bad state for the state to be in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    It's worrying that there's a fairly high chance that a terrorist organisation could have a group within the security outfit if there's incompetence to this scale! I wonder if the army will end up having to do battle with the so called 'security' at some point!..I'm very happy to be nowhere near the place myself!

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    As an ex- Civil Servant, I can say at least it's out in the open. If it had been a Government cock-up it would have been hushed-up.
    Not that impressed with G4S but they will pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    from what i heard from someone ..they were hiring anyone to fill the numbers without doing much of the background check on people and still a shortfall on staff

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    "It's shocking so many on here having a go at a company that CREATES jobs and wealth!"

    Like those paragons of fairness and integrity, the banks, eh?

    You can't HONESTLY believe that the only thing that these scumbags should be judged on is the end result? Although even on that basis they're damned.

    Oh - and job creation? Exploitative minimum-wage servitude is nothing to boast about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    I just hope that May has passed on relevant information regarding the call sign of Air force One. The RAF need to know & so do the missile batteries on the flats which may have auto tracking systems. Lack of communication at her level has already been proven. A further lack, could start a whole chain of events not worth thinking about & could cause serious diplomatic problems with our US masters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    I completed my role specific training and I was told about my SIA training on Friday 29th june night that I had my four day SIA training starting at 8am on Monday 2nd morning. I was required to bring 2 proof of address and a passport, due to the short notice I was unable to get my second proof of address in time and therefore told I could not work for the olympics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    @554, it doesn't "create" wealth. It moves a small amount of wealth while protecting the rest. In theory.

    And the protection is lacking in this case.

    As for "creating jobs", I'd be happier if the jobs were permanent and not temporary, and if the firm had actually provided the jobs it was supposed (contracted) to!

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    They should not be penalised on the amount they are being paid but, simply required to pay out of their own pockets for other contractors to provide the staff numbers they overlooked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    @554 they are not creating jobs particularly, especially with police privatisation... they are being given public sector police staff trained and equipped at public expense, and then making some redundant (see Lincolnshire police example). The govt withdraw funding so police cannot mamage, civvy jobs have to go, G4S step in for profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    Ian H
    3 Minutes ago :
    "Breathtakingly immoral, totally indefensible - WRITE TO YOUR MP's !"

    Why waste paper? “Our” MPs are breathtakingly immoral and totally indefensible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    Under Francis Maude’s latest proposals for managing staff performance in the Civil Service, the 10% of civil servants who are judged to be the worst performers on the basis of their annual appraisal will be sacked immediately. They will then be transferred to senior management positions in G4S in order to raise performance standards there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    "If you have worked in the private sector then you should know better than the stereotypical class based nonsense."

    Excuse me? Was the comment from you that I replied to anything but a predictably trite, ill-informed rightist cliché?

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    G4S is one of the worst rent-a-cop companies in the world. Number One is Securitas. Both of these companies hire people who are one step ahead of prison and most of the people that they hire are Functionally Illiterate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    Re 540

    Not sure I was abusive to anyone.

    There is no world 'elite' controlling things because, quite simply, there is no one on Earth capable of doing it.

    The word privatisation is semantics. Another way of descibing selling something that doesn't belong to those selling is theft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    I don't see the problem - it's business right? sometimes you win etc. so now there is a great opportunity for a rival to pick up some pieces and move themselves forward. Would like to see new building society start-ups to replace the also floundering banks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    I note the comment about speaking English. Given the staggering incompetence, scale and suddenness of the problem, you can bet your last dollar that in order to save money, thousands of non-EU applicants were given visas, allowed into the country from Pakistan, India (perhaps Africa), and have gone missing, never to be traced again. Will anyone be asked to comment on this? I expect not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    I'd love to know how they've remained in business so long, given their management apparently don't know what's going on at the company.

    Presumably they'll be refunding the £300m of public money that doesn't exist for public services...

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.


    "typical, man at the top is clearly not in the loop so what else goes on at G4S?"

    You really do not want to know, seriously, you don't want to know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    It's shocking so many on here having a go at a company that CREATES jobs and wealth in this country!!

    The best thing that can happen is G4S getting more involved with Police and Prisons to help drive the culture change we need to a more business like model which will save millions. Unionised public sector managers need to be replaced by university educated talent from the outside also.


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