Prospect critical of Serco defence business contract
02 Mar 2012
Prospect has criticised the decision by the Ministry of Defence to award Serco a contract worth around £36 million to run the Defence Business Services (DBS), which includes HR, finance and security vetting functions.
The contract is for four years with the possibility to further extend for another year. Prospect represents Vetting Officers who work for DBS National Security Vetting (DBS NSV).
Negotiator Anna Biggs said: “The first we knew that this contract had been awarded was when Serco advertised to fill a post. While our Vetting Officers will continue to provide an excellent service, Prospect is concerned that the link to Serco will drive away business as they can no longer be viewed as a government organisation.
”Company earnings will be performance-related, which can only mean further attacks on terms and conditions for civil servants because Serco thrives by driving down costs and delivering what the government will claim to be efficiencies and savings.”
The union says DBS has already delivered savings required by MOD via Value for Money and should be allowed to continue to provide MOD with the services it needs.
“The decision to contract out senior management to Serco is the subject of a formal disagreement with the department. Prospect sought a meeting with the minister before any announcement, so that we could ensure he was aware of the reasons for our opposition. We know that the Value for Money case put forward to keep the work in-house was ‘marginal’ and we believe that buying-in the senior management of DBS sends all the wrong signals to the rest of MOD’s staff: Ministers don’t trust you to run your own operation,” said Biggs.
Prospect opposes the DBS contract which means that although Serco drives the business, the risk remains with MOD and even allows Serco to outsource work to themselves.
Prospect had previously highlighted to the department the issue of a contractor being responsible for business appointment rules that apply to civil servants and the military who need to seek approval before taking up new employment after leaving MOD.
Business appointment rules mean that staff must obtain government approval before taking any form of full, part time or fee-paid employment in the UK, or overseas in a public or private company or in the service of a foreign government or its agencies, within two years of leaving Crown employment. MOD has already agreed that alternative arrangements will be put in place to ensure that a contractor cannot approve future appointments.
The Serco contract is the outcome of the defence transformation project and recommendations in Lord Levene’s defence reform report.
The minister also announced that further work was to be done on other elements of the department’s transformation programme – Defence Equipment and Support and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.