In case you haven’t noticed, huge amounts of public money are spent with (profit making) private companies to deliver what we might otherwise think of as public services. Today, it seems as if the Army has been called up to cover the back of security firm G4S in providing security staff to, erm, police the Olympic Games (e.g. Guardian:Olympic security: army reinforcements called in to fill G4S shortfall, FT: Army steps in after Olympic ‘shambles’).
I’ve done a couple of sketches with G4S related data before, so not wanting to miss a little stirring opportunity, I thought it might be worth posting them here…
As with most large companies, G4S is not a single entity (that would be too easy…) Rather, complex corporate structures are developed in order to separate concerns and facilitate group wide, tax efficient relationships between different legal entities. WHilst we might think of G4S as a single company (“G4S”), it is actually a corporate sprawl, made up of a myriad of other companies that often share directors as well as shares in each other.
Some time ago, I started exploring how we might be able to use directors’ dealings, as collated by OpenCorporates, to sketch out maps of how corporate sprawls are structured (Mapping the Tesco Corporate Organisational Sprawl – An Initial Sketch. Here’s a recap of the recipe I used:
– grab a list of companies that may be associated with “Tesco” by querying the OpenCorporates reconciliation API for tesco
– grab the filings for each of those companies
– trawl through the filings looking for director appointments or terminations
– store a row for each directorial appointment or termination including the company name and the director.
At the time, I grabbed data for a handful of companies, including Serco (you have heard of Serco, haven’t you…?!) and… G4S. You can find the data here: OpenCorporates data for G4S on Scraperwiki. The two relevant tables are companydetails_g4s and directors_g4s. The Scraperwiki view here can be used to generate a GEXF graph that describes the bipartite netwrok of G4S companies and the directors who have had dealings with them. A key argument is used to grab the data from the required directors table on the other scraper. So to graph the director dealings capture by the table directors_g4s we use the URL https://views.scraperwiki.com/run/tesco_sprawl_demo_graph/?key=g4s. If you save this file with a .gexf suffix you can load it into graph visualisation tool Gephi and generate something like this:
What this shows is company and director nodes that map out part of the G4S corporate sprawl. The nodes are sized according to a statistical measure calculated across the network known as eigenvector centrality, which is related to the number of directors associated with the company, as well as the number of companies they are associated with. For this graph, I’m not sure how informative the measure actually is…
Note that are several other caveats that should be attached to this sketch (and it is just that: a sketch). Firstly, not all G4S group companies are necessarily included within it (there is still work to be done in providing reliable ways of identifying all of the entities that we might thing of as being meaningful corporate group members). Secondly, the sketch may show companies that no longer exist (for example, it may include companies that have been wound up). Thirdly, only recent directors’ dealings are included, and then, not all of them, (appointments and terminations are included, but other dealings that are: a) a matter of public record, and b) available as open data) are not necessarily in the database view I scraped from OpenCorporates (which itself may be gappy).
On my to do list is capture the date of appointment/termination of a director so that we can see an animated/timeslider view over the directorial network that holds the sprawl together at any particular time.
Caveats aside, what the sketch does show is that there are or have been a wide variety of companies that we might think of as G4S, although each of them may actually provide very different services. There may also be names you recognise amongst the directors…
As well as the corporate sprawl, I have, in the past, has a quick peak at some of the monies G4S has received from public bodies (you might recall that public bodies, depending on what they are, must disclose spend over £500 or £25k). So for example, in Sketching Substantial Council Spending Flows to Serco Using OpenlyLocal Aggregated Spending Data, I also did a quick sketch of how council spending flowed to G4S companies:
If you’re interested in the data, the scraper is here and a breakdown of spend items by local councils as reported by OpenlyLocal (some time ago, it has to be admitted…) is here (so for example, Milton Keynes’ Children and Young People’s Service spend a fair bit with G4S’ fluffy bunny outfit, G4S Care & Justice Services(UK) Ltd).
A quick trawl for G4S on OpenSpending didn’t turn up anything, but never fear, UK gov departements are happily spending with G4S companies. So for example, Home Office spend with G4S CARE & JUSTICE SERVICES (UK) LTD in May 2012 was getting on for quarter of a million via the UK Border Agency on “Refugee repatriation.serv”; or how about this: using the OKFN recline.js explorer tool, we can grab the MoJ (ARAMIS) April 2012 Spending over £25k data and view the payments to G4S INTEGRATED SERVICES (UK) LTD:
Police authorities also divert public funds into G4S coffers. So for example, the Hampshire Police Authority (Scraperwiki data) regularly bung G4s Forensic & Medical Services Ltd the odd 180 grand, sometimes twice within the same month (at least, according to data I scraped… so treat this with caution…! Remember – all I do are sketches that are intended to act as a starting point for further investigation…)
So… that’s a quick tour of some of the open data that’s out there that we can use to shine a torch on elements of the corporate sprawl that is G4S. Hmm… thinks… presumably the complicated corporate structure can also act as a firewall to limit any liabilities arising from the oops around the Olympics contract… (which is possibly only one of many contracts to a variety of G4S companies from different public bodies incurring direct Olympics related expenditure? Anyone care to investigate…?!;-)
PS As a precursor to a little more digging around this, I thought I’d check out the G4S PLC annual report for 2011. This included a mention of major shareholder holdings identified via DTR 5 declarations. It strikes me that a map of the extent to which major investors own significant chunks of large companies might be interesting? The question then is: is there an aggregation of DTR5 declarations anywhere, or would it have to be cobbled together by looking at each of the annual reports of the FTSE 100 companies, for example? Which would be a pain…
PPS WHilst looking through the report, it also struck me that on transparency grounds, a statement of the total revenues received from invoices settled by the public sector might be interesting? This would give a number to aim for when aggregating payments to a particular company or corporate group from separate public sector spending data releases…;-)