EC Harris drafted in to assess ability to procure 16,000 prison places in eight years

The Ministry of Justice has ordered an urgent review of its £2.3bn prison procurement programme in an attempt to stave off a national shortage in prison places.

The move follows a report by Labour peer Lord Carter that suggested the ministry did not have the procurement expertise to deliver the 10,500 extra prison places the government wants to provide by 2014.


It is understood that consultant EC Harris has been called in to carry out the review, which will take three weeks.

The ministry is believed to have decided on this move in light of the expansion of its prison building scheme, which Carter announced would receive extra funding.

A source close to the department said: “This top down review has been prompted, in part, by the fact that the department does not have the delivery capacity under its current model to cope with the government’s extra spend.”

The review will work out the structure of a new management board at the ministry, to deliver new prisons. It will also examine efficient ways of procuring contractors and consultants, and analyse prison frameworks and the effectiveness of PFI.

In addition, it will look at the options for delivering the three “Titan” prisons that Lord Carter recommended should be built by 2014. It is understood that the review will consider whether these prisons, each of which will house 2,500 offenders, should be delivered by a dedicated team, and whether they should be delivered through PFI.

Work on site or in the pipeline is likely to continue as planned, rather than wait for the outcomes of the review, as the government is under pressure to deliver extra prison spaces.

England’s prison population is projected to increase from 80,000 today to 96,000 by 2014.

EC Harris declined to comment.