Tuesday, January 16, 2018

George Monbiot - The PFI bosses fleeced us all. Now watch them walk away

When contracts fail, the legal priority is still to pay firms like Carillion. Money is officially more valuable than life

The corporations want their cut and have their cronies in government. The market is fine for cans of beans, cars, computers, Hi -Fi, etc, where the price can be evaluated easily and seen whether they are fair, but when it comes to government services even the government can get ripped off. But do governments care when they are the agents of the corporations? The revolving door where government ministers go on to get good jobs working for the corporations. 

Excerpt - 

Again the “inefficient” state mops up the disasters caused by “efficient” private companies. Just as the army had to step in when G4S failed to provide security for the London 2012 Olympics, and the Treasury had to rescue the banks, the collapse of Carillion means that the fire service must stand by to deliver school meals.

Two hospitals, both urgently needed, that Carillion was supposed to be constructing, the Midland Metropolitan and the Royal Liverpool, are left in half-built limbo, awaiting state intervention. Another 450 contracts between Carillion and the state must be untangled, resolved and perhaps rescued by the government.

When you examine the claims made for the efficiency of the private sector, you soon discover that they boil down to the transfer of risk. Value for money hangs on the idea that companies shoulder risks the state would otherwise carry. But in cases like this, even when the company takes the first hit, the risk ultimately returns to the government. In these situations, the very notion of risk transfer is questionable.

The government claimed that the private sector, being more efficient, would provide services more cheaply than the private sector. PFI projects, Blair and Brown promised, would go ahead only if they proved to be cheaper than the “public sector comparator”.

But at the same time, the government told public bodies that state money was not an option: if they wanted new facilities, they would have to use the private finance initiative. In the words of the then health secretary, Alan Milburn: “It’s PFI or bust”. So, if you wanted a new hospital or bridge or classroomor army barracks, you had to demonstrate that PFI offered the best value for money. Otherwise, there would be no project. Public bodies immediately discovered a way to make the numbers add up: risk transfer.

The costing of risk is notoriously subjective. Because it involves the passage of a fiendishly complex contract through an unknowable future, you can make a case for almost any value. A study published in the British Medical Journal revealed that, before the risk was costed, every hospital scheme it investigated would have been built much more cheaply with public funds. But once the notional financial risks had been added, building them through PFI came out cheaper in every case, although sometimes by less than 0.1%.

Not only was this exercise (as some prominent civil servants warned) bogus, but the entire concept is negated by the fact that if collapse occurs, the risk ripples through the private sector and into the public. Companies like Carillion might not be too big to fail, but the services they deliver are. You cannot, in a nominal democracy, suddenly close a public hospital, let a bridge collapse, or fail to deliver school meals.

1 comment:

Jeff65 said...

PFI = PPP = Fail. Where are you Matt Franko?