The shambolic Olympic security firm G4S is bidding for the right to print Britain’s banknotes, it emerged last night.
The embattled group has teamed up with a French company to try to get its hands on the lucrative £1billion contract.
Currently the work is done by the British firm De La Rue, which was first commissioned to print UK banknotes at the outbreak of the First World War.
G4S, which has faced calls to be barred from public work after a string of scandals, wants to take over the contract
Now G4S, which has faced calls to be barred from public work after a string of scandals, wants to take over the contract.
It has joined forces with France’s Oberthur Technologies, which would take control of the printing process itself.
Labour MP Keith Vaz, who has called for the company to be blacklisted from future taxpayer contracts, demanded G4S pull out of the bidding.
He said: ‘G4s have failed the public on numerous occasions.
‘At a recent public meeting Jon Shaw, a G4S director, agreed with the Home Affairs Select Committee that companies that fail to deliver on public contracts should be on a high risk register.
The group faced public outrage last summer when it failed to provide enough guards for the Olympic venues. The army was drafted in to make up the shortfall
‘In light of this they should withdraw their application for this important contract until they have got their house in order.’
Before 2003 the Bank of England managed its own banknote printing.
In 2003 the Bank gave the work to De La Rue, which has held the contract for ten years.
Now it is has put the job out to tender.
The winning company will be responsible for printing notes from 2015 to 2025, with the possibility of extending the work even further to 2028.
But even if G4S and its Franco partner win, they will have to print the notes in the UK.
Any successful company can only print the notes using the Bank’s secure printing works in Debden in the Epping Forest.
From there the notes are taken securely to the Bank’s cash distribution centres around the country.
The Bank has issued paper banknotes ever since the central bank was created in 1694 as a way of raising money for King William III’s war against France.
But now it is planning to issue plastic notes, which can survive a spin in the washing machine.
Polymer banknotes, as well as being hard to fake, are durable and stay cleaner for longer because the material is more resistant to dirt and moisture.
Whichever firm wins the contract will have to be able to produce them as well as paper notes, the Bank has said.
Current provider De La Rue entered the plastic banknote market earlier this year with deals to supply Fiji and Mauritius.
G4S has been embroiled in a number of public blunders over the last 18 months.
The group faced public outrage last summer when it failed to provide enough guards for the Olympic venues.
The army was drafted in to make up the shortfall, and G4S was forced to pay compensation.
In July the company was accused of charging taxpayers for electronic tags on prisoners who were either dead, in jail or had left the country.
Ministers said they would review the company’s entire portfolio of government work – worth almost £1billion a year.
The blunders happened on the watch of flamboyant boss Nick Buckles, who was forced to resign earlier this year after a humiliating warning that the company’s profits would fall short of expectations.
G4S refused to comment last night. The Bank of England also refused to comment.
By Peter Campbell
PUBLISHED: 01:11 GMT, 27 September 2013 | UPDATED: 13:31 GMT, 27 September 2013
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