The UK Government has named four companies to take over the electronic tagging of criminals contract after the Serco and G4S 'overcharging' controversy.
Satellite and software giant Astrium, Telefonica, London-based technology firm Buddi and the outsourcing company Capita have been assigned to the service, which is expected to start next July.
According to Capita, which has recently secured a contract to set up the UK’s smart electricity and gas meter network, the deal covering the next six years and using new tags will be worth some £400m.
Current technology is based on a GPS device attached to offender’s ankle. This constantly transmits information about its location through a basestation connected to a power supply located in the offender’s home. If the tag is not within the reach of the basestation, authorities are automatically alerted. However, the limited range of the home basestation has been cited as a major drawback, and something that the newly appointed companies promise to address.
"We are now going to be able to track offenders wherever they go, 24 hours a day,” said Justice Secretary Chris Grayling about the new system, which is claimed to deliver better and cheaper service than that of Serco and G4S.
"And we will be able to stop them going to places we don't want them going to go – like paedophiles hanging around outside schools. All of this is going to be done with world-class British technology designed and built by the kind of business we want government to work with more."
Buddi, backed by hedge-fund Odey Asset Management, will make the ankle tags in Nottingham. It already makes tags used by 30 police forces, and also makes devices to monitor people with dementia, while Telefonica and Astrium are expected to cover the telecommunications part of the project.
"This integrated service will play a key role in providing better alternatives to short prison-sentences, allowing more tailored curfew and location monitoring, and better management of subjects under electronic monitoring orders," said Capita boss Paul Pindar, claiming the new system will be the largest and most advanced tagging system in the world.
Currently, about 15,000 offenders are tagged in the UK, with the number anticipated to grow after the new system is in place.
The incoming companies were selected after a scandal broke out involving incumbents Serco and G4S. Information emerged in July that the two had been overcharging the government, billing for monitoring of dead offenders or those sent back to prison.
An audit by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, launched in May, proved the overcharging began at least as far back as the start of the current contracts in 2005
- but could have dated as far back as the previous contracts in 1999.