03:14 GMT14 August 2020
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    The boss of outsourcing giant Serco has issued a passionate defence of his company's coronavirus "test and trace" system, calling it a huge achievement. This comes despite the track and trace app not yet being available.

    This comes as a new survey found that only fifteen percent of people surveyed believe that a private company should be running the track and trace operation for profit.

    Pascale Robinson, campaign officer from "We Own It", explains what the results of the survey could mean for the ongoing fight against the coronavirus.

    Sputnik: What is Serco?

    Pascale Robinson: Serco is a private outsourcing company. They take on all different manner of contracts from waste management, asylum accommodation and recently they've been very interested in our NHS. When commenting on this particular contract, the CEO himself said that this is an opportunity to cement the position of the private sector in the public sector supply chain. So we know exactly what Serco wants to achieve with this contract and that is maximising private sector benefits from public services.

    Sputnik: Why does the public have such low opinions of Serco? 

    Pascale Robinson: Serco has been shown time and time again to be untrustworthy in various ways. They were overcharging the government and they were fined over 20 million for doing so. This was for a tagging scandal to do with prisoners and probation. When they ran a breast cancer screening centre, they missed off inviting over 400,000 women to a cancer screening and their trainers complained of having one hour's training.

    Separate to that they've been fined over a million for workers' deaths and safety issues. So Serco should be nowhere near our NHS and particularly not a contract as important as this. Contact tracing is vital to us getting out of lockdown safely, seeing our friends and family and hugging our loved ones again. What we need is for contact tracing, the test, track, and isolate programme, to be led by local public health teams, health services, and local authorities who know how to do the job well.

    Sputnik: Could the lack of trust in Serco lead to a lack of trust in the track and trace service?

    Pascale Robinson: Almost definitely. So when we did a previous poll that was conducted by servation 40% of people said they were less willing to share their information with Serco. Only 15% of people believe that Serco should be in charge of contact tracing. To put that in a positive light; two thirds of the public believes that local public health teams should be running this contract.

    They instinctively understand that local authorities know their communities, they have this expertise and they're linked up with local services that can support people to isolate. So we're really clear on this and the government needs to listen now. We need local public health teams and health services to be running this and Serco need to be scrapped as soon as possible.

    Sputnik: What can the public do in regards to Serco’s continued presence in the public sector?

    Pascale Robinson: Right now it's up to us to put the pressure on Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson to let them know exactly what we want. And we at 'We Own It" really wants to help people apply that pressure because this needs to be changed, ASAP. However, there are lots of ways that...we need more information. So right now the contract hasn't been published and right now, local authorities are doing their best to overcome this situation they've been put in, they're setting up their own testing centres.

    They've got their own brilliant contact tracing programmes. But what we need to do with the public is help that by putting pressure on our leaders to end the Serco contract right now and put local authorities and local public health teams in charge.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    coronavirus, COVID-19, United Kingdom
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