G4S Boss Acknowledges 'Humiliating Shambles'
The head of the security firm G4S has acknowledged the company's failure to provide enough guards for the Olympics had been a "humiliating shambles".
Nick Buckles, chief executive of the world's second largest private sector employer, told MPs the firm should never have taken on an expanded 2012 contract to provide more than 10,000 security personnel.
Addressing members of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, he said: "Clearly we regret signing it but now we have got to get on and deliver it."
Mr Buckles is under pressure to quit his £830,000-a-year job over the fiasco, which has resulted in the emergency deployment of soldiers, marines, airmen and police officers and seen £400m wiped off the market value of G4S.
His appearance comes just 10 days before the Olympics opening ceremony.
He told the committee he had been informed on July 3 while he was in America on holiday that there were problems with recruitment. He said the news came as a "complete and utter shock".
The security executive confirmed the company had so far only been able to deploy 4,200 of the 10,400 guards originally promised.
But he told MPs he was hopeful the firm would supply a total of 7,000 personnel in the coming days.
In the meantime, thousands of extra military and police officers have been deployed at Olympic venues around the country to make up for the shortfall in numbers.
Mr Buckles admitted G4S had been forced to go to rival security firms to ask for their help and that another 500 troops are being kept in reserve in case of further problems.
The committee heard there were problems with retention at G4S because staff were only paid during training and once they started work, so quit if they found permanent jobs elsewhere.
But Mr Buckles said it was not an issue with workers failing to turn up.
"Our problem at the moment is a shortage of staff. We just don't have the staff," he said.
By its own admission, G4S stands to lose up to £50m of the original £284m contract.
Despite the firm's failings, Nick Buckles repeatedly insisted the company still intended to claim its £57m management fee for work over the last two years.
Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the company's determination to claim that money was "astonishing" and called on G4S to waive the fee and any others associated with the contract.
Mr Buckles replied: "We've managed the contract and we've had management on the ground for two years. We still expect to deliver a significant number of staff."
Tory MP Nicola Blackwood said Mr Buckles' performance before the MPs "would lead quite a lot of people to despair".
"I had very little confidence in G4S fulfilling this contract before this session started and now I don't have any confidence at all," she said.
Mr Buckles promised the firm would pay all police and military costs caused by G4S' failure, would cover any accommodation expenses and would even consider paying bonuses to individual officers and troops if considered appropriate.
As well as the 3,500 troops, police officers from Dorset, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Northumbria, South Wales, Strathclyde, West Midlands, Thames Valley and Greater Manchester have now also been switched to Olympics security duties.
Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, the national Olympics security co-ordinator, said: "Forces are making sure they make the best use of their resources locally to do all they can to minimise the impact on local policing."
Towards the end of his evidence session, Mr Buckles confirmed to MPs that G4S had decided not to bid for the security contracts for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016 because of the London 2012 fiasco.