Call it what it is — Serco Test & Trace.

I wrote about disaster prone Dido Harding almost a month ago, when she was given the gig to oversee NHS Test & Trace and now, in mid September, we’ve run out of tests. Well that’s one way to dodge the work I suppose! Where is she? For someone supposedly in charge she’s been rather conspicuous by her absence.

Test & Trace, despite being consistently connected with the NHS by the supine media outlets, isn’t run by the NHS at all anymore, but as per usual with the Tories has been outsourced to one of their favoured companies, essentially handed to one of their mates so they can get rich of the back of a government contract & provide a nice donation to the Tories at some point in the future no doubt. The Tories love finding ways to get public money into their own coffers and outsourcing is a wizard wheeze to them. I’ve covered this before regarding PPE, but in the case of Test & Trace, a contract worth £45.8m got handed to serial bodgers Serco.

Doesn’t matter how many times Serco screw up, they can always expect to get a cushy contract off the Tories. It was only the month before they got this contract that they were fined £1m for failing in a contract they were given to find accommodation for asylum seekers. Given this contract was worth £1.9m to them, they’ve made £900,000 for failure. Last year they were fined nearly £20m over the electronic tagging of prisoners scandal, taking responsibility for three counts of fraud and two of false accounting. They were claiming money to monitor the movements of anyone from people taken back into prison, to people who had died!

They won a £70m contract to run payroll for Lincolnshire schools from Tory run Lincolnshire County Council in 2015, but failed to pay suppliers and left staff unpaid resulting in a £1.2m fine the following year. Still in the job, they again screwed up wages, resulting in another £1m fine the following year.

Now, we’ve run out of tests. Matt Hancock, the Health Minister has apparently said this is because they’re free…are you not paying for them then Matt? I mean surely our tax money is being used for health in some meaningful way, like, I dunno, getting tests? But then you’ve handed responsibility to Serco, you can stand there blameless, pointing the finger at the contractor, a contractor with a litany of failure left in its wake, expensive messes that we’ve had to pay to resolve and you just keep giving them work! I mean running out of tests isn’t even their first screw up, they leaked 296 contact tracer email addresses back in May! Just how many mistakes can one company make and still remain a trusted contractor? I’ve only covered British screw-ups here too, this proverbial Chuckle brother of a company operates worldwide! It even cropped up in the Paradise Papers, not due to any dodgy tax arrangements, but because a law firm mentioned in the papers reckoned they were a high risk client due to their sheer incompetence!

Naturally the boss of Serco has defended his company from such claims and who might he be? Rupert Soames, bother of Nicholas Soames, the former Conservative MP, Old Etonian, Oxbridge and together they are grandsons of former Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill. I cannot imagine why this company keeps getting contracts.

But it isn’t the only one, the government in response to COVID-19 shelled out £5.5bn across 600 outsourcing contracts and each one represents an abdication of responsibility by the government. A Survation Poll showed just 15% of the public believe a private company should be in charge of contact tracing and that was in July, just two months into Serco’s contract. The Tory obsession with shrinking the state means other companies take on more governmental roles and charge us through the nose for it because they want to make as much money as possible from it, they wouldn’t do it otherwise. It means everything gets more expensive and when they screw up or deliver poor service, the Tories can conveniently blame them, administer a relatively small fine, look like they know what they’re doing and it all continues. We end up paying more, through taxation and in some cases additional billing, for a poorer service delivered by some very large multinational companies like Serco. That’s not withstanding the very simple fact that this incompetence risks health and risks lives. There are hardly any checks and balances, often these contracts get handed out with no tendering process. It is an absolute scandal that it doesn’t matter how badly they mess up, contractors like Serco are always there with their hands out for more contracts, that people like Dido Harding, with no experience in health gets appointed to oversee such contracts purely because of her Tory connections. She should stick to horses not health, Serco and other should not be awarded new contracts constantly regardless of track record, favouritism in the tendering process must end and the Tories need to be held accountable for ALL the problems outsourcing causes because they should do the jobs they are elected to do instead of paying someone else to, wasting our taxes & risking lives in the process. Remember when the Tories called test and trace world-beating? The only thing that’s world beating is our willingness to put up with it.

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