In a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, justice minister Dominic Raab said that the contract with technology firm Steatite had faced considerable delays.
The deal was entered into after it was revealed that the Ministry of Justice had been billed for millions of pounds worth of electronic tagging by G4S and Serco for services that had not been carried out.
The tags being developed for the government by Steatite were intended to improve the tracking of offenders through more advanced use of GPS. Current tags work on a specific radio frequency, but moving to a system based on satellites is thought to be more flexible.
When the deal was signed in July 2014, the MoJ said it had a net present cost of £23.2m, while the department said yesterday around £21m had been spent on the programme to date.
However, Raab said the government now considered it more appropriate to purchase off-the-shelf products than to develop a bespoke system.
“My colleague Andrew Selous announced to the House on 13 July last year that there had been significant problems with this programme, leading to considerable delays,” he said.
“As a result, we initiated a review into the programme, looking at how to get the programme back on track. This review examined progress made on the programme to date and how best electronic monitoring technology can meet our ambitions for the future, and considered the experience of other jurisdictions around the world who have developed GPS tagging schemes.
“Developing bespoke tags has been challenging and it is now clear that it will be more appropriate to pursue our goals using off-the-shelf technology which is already available. That is why the Ministry of Justice will be terminating our contract to develop a bespoke tagging product with Steatite Limited and will shortly begin a new procurement process for proven tags already on the market.”
In a statement, Steatite’s parent company Solid State said: “Solid State has today been informed of a decision by the Ministry of Justice to terminate the MoJ’s contract for Electronic Monitoring Hardware with its subsidiary Steatite Limited. Steatite Limited is to enter into discussions with the MoJ regarding the terms on which the relationship will end.”
Raab added there remained “a huge opportunity” for a new tagging system to reduce reoffending, cut costs for taxpayers and keep the public safe.
“This decision will mean we can proceed with wider changes to the way we manage the programme. We will simplify our approach in order to meet the challenges of technical and business integration and continue to drive and monitor delivery from the other suppliers. This remains a challenging programme, which we will continue to keep under review.”
Raab also highlighted that Prime Minister David Cameron had announced pilots testing the use of GPS tracking technologies as part of his reform plans for criminal justice. These pilots will run in a variety of settings to test how GPS technology can be used and how it affects behaviour to inform policy decisions, he stated.