Wednesday

29th Mar 2017

Investigation

Controversial British firm wins EU security job in Gaza

  • Israeli bomb damage at UN-run school in Gaza from the eight-day war in 2012 (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU diplomatic service has confirmed that British company Page Protective Services (PPS) will guard its people in Gaza and the West Bank despite the firm's poor track record.

A note published on the EU's Tenders Electronic Daily website on Saturday (27 April) says PPS will be paid €13.4 million plus VAT to do the work over the next four years.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The fee is almost double what was foreseen in the original tender, published last July, which said the contract would be worth between €6 million and €8 million.

The EU has 16 diplomatic staff and another 50 or so officials stationed in Jerusalem.

Their activities in the West Bank are considered to be fairly low risk.

But their occasional trips to Gaza, which hosts radical Islamist groups and which is prone to sudden eruptions of fighting with Israel, are more dangerous.

One EU diplomat recalled that his first-ever visit to the Gaza strip coincided with an Israeli air strike.

"Within hours of arriving, I found myself in a car holding a wounded man with blood everywhere. I had to ask myself the question there and then: am I really cut out for this?" he told this website.

Just two other security companies put in bids for the Gaza/West bank tender.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) said on Monday it was not ready to give an immediate comment on the PPS award.

But its decision caused surprise in the private security sector, given PPS' poor track record on EU contracts in Afghanistan and in Gaza/West Bank itself.

PPS has been guarding EU diplomats in Afghanistan since 2008 and did Gaza/West Bank between 2005 and 2010.

In Afghanistan, it failed to supply the right body armour and rifles to its guards for more than one year after the contract began.

It also failed to supply proof of work done for around €1 million worth of invoices and paid a €300,000 penalty in lieu of the full amount.

It was awarded a new contract for Afghanistan earlier this year, but then the EEAS changed its mind, saying PPS was non-compliant with the "necessary conditions."

In its past work in Gaza/West Bank, EU diplomats said its drivers did not know their way around Gaza and that they abused local Palestinian staff.

They also questioned its attempts to avoid paying social security contributions to Israel on the grounds that its Palestinian guards did not recognise Israeli sovereignty.

The then EU envoy to Jerusalem, Christian Berger, wrote in an internal letter in 2009 that he was "very concerned about their [PPS] actual performance" and that the firm's behaviour "has led to reputational damage for the commission," referring to the European Commission, which managed foreign delegations before the EEAS was created.

Berger repeated his criticism in 2010.

The EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf, in January this year also drafted a critical report on PPS' work in Afghanistan. The text is confidential, but the EEAS says Olaf found no evidence of fraud per se.

A second Olaf investigation into PPS past work in Gaza/West Bank is currently ongoing.

For his part, PPS chief Stuart Page told EUobserver by email on Tuesday that his firm is still in the running for the new Kabul tender.

"The EEAS has chosen to halt the procurement process for the award of a new contract in Afghanistan strictly in accordance with its procurement procedures. Those companies (including this company) which prequalified in June 2012 have been invited to participate in a negotiated procedure for the award of a new contract," he said.

He described PPS' relationship with the EU institutions over the past few years as "entirely professional and fair."

This story was updated on 30 April to add the comment by Page

EU men with guns: A comedy of errors

The EU foreign service just did a U-turn on a €50mn tender for bodyguards in Kabul, with leaked documents posing questions how a British firm with a frightening track record won it in the first place.

EU bins security contract, annoys Libya

The EU foreign service has cancelled a €10 million contract with British security firm G4S in a minor diplomatic dispute with Libya.

Opinion

EU-Gaza mission on the beach

The EU border crossing mission to Gaza risks becoming another symbol of waste and missed opportunity in the region.

Very private security

EU diplomats work in some of the world's most dangerous places. The men who guard them cost millions each year. But are they any good? Does the EU award the contracts fairly? Two recent fiascos pose the questions. EUobserver investigates.

News in Brief

  1. Scottish MPs give go ahead to seek referendum
  2. Uber pulls out of Denmark over new taxi-regulation
  3. EU court validates sanctions on Russia's Rosneft
  4. Luxembourg to team up with Ireland in Apple tax appeal
  5. EU majority against GM crops, but not enough to block them
  6. Turkish referendum voting starts in Europe
  7. Le Pen says she lacks election funds
  8. UN dinner for Cyprus leaders to restart stalled peace talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  2. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  3. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  4. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  5. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  6. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  8. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  9. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  10. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  12. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans