Eroded Sand

The erosion of accountability

Now, let’s get this straight from the outset – I am not a politically motivated person. I do however have a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. When I see someone being bullied my pseudo “spidey sense” (© Spider-Man) kicks in and I do my utmost to stop it (the bullying that is). In the tricky task of serving cake I take great care in distributing it evenly amongst the cake-indulging participants.

Let’s (hypothetically) say I’ve signed a contract to supply torches. If I have agreed to sell 15 torches at £1 each then I’m due £15 – once I have supplied the torches. But what if I can only manage to supply 10 torches – how much should I be paid? That’s right – £10.

Let’s extrapolate that very basic (and fair) concept. G4S (the resultant security company from the merger of Group 4 and Securicor) won the contract to supply security services to the London 2012 Olympics. This contract is reported to be worth £284m (that’s Two Hundred and Eighty Four Million pounds – a great deal more than Dr Evil’s ‘One Million Dollars’). You may well be aware that G4S failed to supply the 10,400 security personnel it promised through this contract. When the proverbial hit the fan they confessed that they had only recruited 4,200 staff. They grovelled to the UK government, LOCOG, and probably Zeus on Mount Olympus promising to provide a revised figure of 7,000 guards…. they managed to scratch up 6,000 (I don’t know about you but I always find it prudent to under-promise and over-deliver or at least set achievable targets rather than disappoint my clients).

So let’s apply the model. £284m for 10,400 security guards, that works out at £27,307.69 per guard (though I’m sure the guards themselves don’t get anything like this wage).

G4S: (on phone to LOCOG) “Whoops we seem to be short by 6,200 people! We’ve got, hmmm (calculator keys – tappity tap tap) 4,200.”
LOCOG: “Aggh! ((aside, cupping hand over phone): “Quick, call uncle David we need help”) OK, so how many can you rustle up before the games?
G4S: “Oooh, 7,000?
LOCOG: “Yes? 7,000?”
G4S: “Yep, defo.”

….three weeks later

G4S: (back on phone) “Erm 6,000”
LOCOG: “Whaaaaat!?”

Now applying our very basic economic model what should G4S receive for 6,000 ‘yer name’s not down, you’re not coming in’ (sorry, couldn’t resist) staff? Well we’ve already established that each G4S guard has a distributed value of £27,307.69 –

thus 6000 x 27307.69 = 163846140

Yep, G4S should be paid £163,846,140 – One Hundred and Sixty Three Million, Eight Hundred and Forty Six Thousand, One Hundred and Forty pounds. Which is £120m (plus a hundred thousand or so – but what’s that between friends!?) less than the contract total value.

How much is G4S reported to likely lose from their contracted total payment?

“Up to” £50m

How is that fair? How can a company under-deliver on a contract and yet not receive a proportional payment for services / goods supplied?

In the current economic climate (don’t get me started about “the erosion of the UK summer”!) we are all told to “Keep Calm and Carry On”, to make cuts, reduce profit margins etc. Whilst the everyday populace seem to take this on-board and plough on there seems to be a layer of the UK’s inhabitants with total disregard for this and who seem to have undergone a moral and ethical lobotomy. This “looking out for number one” mentality has gone beyond self-preservation and descended into blatant greed and disregard for anyone else. Now don’t misunderstand me – I’m equally not advocating a lazy, feckless (definition: no sense of responsibility), welfare dependant population. Everyone should just pull their weight and do their best at their given task (see the fourth paragraph of my post Thank You Steve (#ThankYouSteve)).

I’m not sure what the answer is to those who choose not to care – apart from maybe wandering down the yellow brick road to see if the Wizard of Oz can provide them with a heart. At the end of the day it boils down to accountability – but when the moral compass has become so badly bent (ahem, banking industry) it’s going to take a fair bit of time to straighten things out. Let’s hope some bastions of ethical business can rise from the mire and lead the way soon.


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