Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: A clear winner in shambles stakes

If there was a gold medal for incompetence at the London Olympics, security firm G4S would be the runaway winner.

Even its chief executive admits that its performance in failing to hire the required number of security staff has been a humiliating shambles and he now regrets the company ever took on the contract.

There is no doubt the debacle has badly dented G4S's reputation; its share price has slumped and it will no longer bid for the next Olympic and World Cup contracts.

Chief executive Nick Buckles was in very contrite mood when he appeared before the House of Commons home affairs committee. He had obviously decided this was the best approach to what has become a hugely embarrassing affair, not just for G4S but also for London.

He even offered to stump up £50m to pay for the police and troops who have been drafted in to make up the numbers of security staff. But he also said the company would be taking its £57m management fee for delivering the contract.

The poor taxpayer is used to being taken for a ride - think of the banks alone - but surely even the public patience would be stretched too far by giving G4S its full fee for overseeing what it describes as a shambles.

There are many who will argue that the company should be penalised rather than rewarded for holding London up to ridicule before a global audience by not supplying the requested 10,000 security staff.

But even more important than the blame game at this stage is the security of the games. The drafting in of police and soldiers may well improve screening at venues, given their experience of security matters.

The failings of G4S should not be an excuse for taking eyes off the well-being of spectators and competitors. With only a matter of days to go before the opening ceremony it is imperative that all agencies involved in security coordinate their activities and avoid any further embarrassing episodes.

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