Last year, the Government made it clear that G4S bids would not be welcome after identifying billing irregularities in its contract to provide electronic tagging services. But yesterday, the Government issued a statement implying that G4S will once again be considered seriously if it bids for government contracts. Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said, “the Government has now accepted that the Corporate Renewal Plan [put forward by G4S] represents the right direction of travel to meet our expectations as a customer”. Assuming the Government is right to have confidence that G4S is back on track, this could be good news for taxpayers. One of the major problems highlighted in a range of reports, including Making Public Service Markets Work, is that there is often a lack of competition for government contracts. For large and highly specialised national service contracts, government regularly finds itself choosing between just one or two bidders. Until last year, for example, Serco and G4S were the only providers of the electronic tagging services on which the National Offender Management Service relied. Two providers hardly leads to intense competition. But once G4S and Serco had been barred from bidding after billing irregularities emerged, matters actually became worse. […]

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