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The Department's administration of its contract with Serco
This chapter examines the key contractual obligations of Serco Australia
Pty Ltd (Serco) as the detention service provider, and the effectiveness of the
Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) in relation to contract
management. Firstly, an outline of Serco's key obligations under the contract
is provided, as well as key issues that arose during the course of the inquiry.
The Committee has identified areas where Serco's performance can be
improved, and areas where the contract needs to be revisited. In large part the
issues identified by the Committee have already been commented on by oversight
bodies, DIAC and even Serco itself. The Committee recognises the pressure
placed on Serco to quickly respond to a sharp increase in the number of
detainees over 2010–2011. Nevertheless, the Committee identified a number of
gaps between what Serco's policies provide should happen in particular
circumstances and the reality on the ground.
The Committee also identified weaknesses in the detention services
contract. The contract has been described by both Serco and DIAC as outcomes
focused. The contract does not provide clear guidance on how Serco's
obligations under the contract should be achieved. This presents challenges for
contract management, particularly when it comes to staffing ratios.
The Australian Protective Service, a Commonwealth Government agency,
managed detention facilities on behalf of the Department up until 1997.
Following a competitive tendering process, the government outsourced the
management of Immigration Detention Centres to Australasian Correctional
Under contract ACS was required to guard, feed and transport detainees, and
ensure that health, education and welfare needs were met.
Amidst concerns that the contract did not represent value for money, and
rising numbers of people in detention, the contract was retendered in 2001. On
27 August 2003 the government entered into a contract with GSL Australia
Following reforms in immigration detention standards, DIAC released a
request for tender on 24 May 2007 for the provision of services for detainees
in immigration detention centres, immigration transit accommodation and
immigration residential housing, which are variously described in Chapter 2. As
a result of the tender, two contracts were entered into with Serco.
On 29 June 2009, DIAC, on behalf of the Commonwealth, entered into a
contract with Serco for detention services for a five year period.
A phased transition from the former detention service provider G4S Australia
Pty Ltd started from the contract signature date.
On 11 December 2009, the Department entered into a second five-year
contract with Serco to provide services to people in immigration residential
housing and immigration transit accommodation throughout Australia. Transition
from the previous detention service provider G4S Australia Pty Ltd was
completed in January 2010.
The two contracts are referred to throughout this report as 'the
When the contract was negotiated the detention population was under 300
and located at seven sites. The detainee population was compliant and low risk.
These circumstances have changed. Following a recommendation from the Hawke-Williams
Review, DIAC and Serco are currently discussing an amendment to the Objectives
section of the contract to improve the expression of the immigration detention
Serco's key obligations under the contract
When the contract was executed in June 2009, Serco agreed to be
responsible for managing seven immigration detention facilities (IDF).
Since 2009 Serco has agreed with DIAC to provide services to eleven additional
Some of these facilities, such as the Asti Motel in Darwin, are no longer in
operation. As discussed previously, Serco is responsible for maintaining
infrastructure. However DIAC is responsible for sourcing and providing detention
Under the contract Serco is required to provide a wide range of services
to detainees on behalf of DIAC. These services include:
providing accommodation including bedding and bathroom
catering, which includes the provision of a minimum of three
meals per day and the accommodation of particular requirements such as halal,
kosher and vegetarian foods;
arranging access to religious practitioners, prayer rooms,
services and other religious activities;
providing access to television, library services and other
educational and entertainment facilities;
arranging access to visitors (including visitor accommodation), a
mail service and to telephones, computers and the internet;
arranging access to interpreters;
arranging excursions to locations or venues external to the IDCs;
facilitating a schedule of programs and activities (participation
in which is voluntary) targeted at enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of
administering an income allowance program and operating shops and
a hairdressing service;
recreational and sporting facilities; and
supplying and replenishing clothes, footwear, toiletries, hygiene
products and other personal items.
Serco is also required to report on incidents, maintain perimeter
security, act in accordance with the immigration detention values and maintain
The terms of DIAC's contract with Serco are flexible and allow DIAC to
request a reduction or, more commonly, an increase in services provided by
Serco. When a new IDC is opened, Serco is required to respond promptly. During
the Canberra hearing, Mr John Moorhouse, Deputy Secretary, DIAC, particularly
highlighted Serco's responsiveness to DIAC's need to accommodate a rising
number of detainees:
I would like to have it on the record that what they have
done in standing up facilities in challenging locations at very short notice is
a considerable achievement for any organisation, and, as a senior manager, I
would not like to have had to do the scale of what they have had to do in the time
frame that they have had to do it. I am not wishing to be an apologist for
them. We do actively work with them. But I do think that, at the same time, the
scale of the challenge with which they have been presented needs to be
acknowledged, and their capacity to respond to that.
Each month DIAC considers Serco's degree of compliance with the
contract. In every month since the abatement process commenced Serco has been
subject to abatement – that is, a penalty fee for failing to comply in full
with its terms. No incentive payments have been paid.
The Committee received evidence from detainees about the quality of services
received from Serco. Many detainees expressed contentment or indifference to
the services provided by Serco. However there were some recurring complaints,
particularly from detainees in remote areas. These issues are discussed in
detail in Chapter 5.
In this chapter the Committee discusses the key issues that arose during
the inquiry. For a detailed assessment for Serco's services to people in
detention, readers are referred to detailed inquiries conducted by the Australian
Human Rights Commission and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Support to people in detention
Serco advises that it is committed to supporting and promoting the
wellbeing of people in detention. This can be achieved by ensuring that IDCs
are humane and that workers within the centres respect human dignity. Serco's
key policy document is the Wellbeing of People in Detention policy and
The manual is designed to give staff an overview of Serco's approach to
assisting detainees, and also provides specific guidance to equip officers in
responding to physical and psychological elements associated with detainee
health and wellbeing.
The Wellbeing Policy, and the contract, provide for the creation of individual
management plans (IMPs) for each detainee within five days of their arrival in
a centre. These plans:
identify and record the religious, cultural and welfare needs of detainees;
allocate a personal officer to each detainee, who will meet
regularly with the detainee;
document and define responses to detainee needs;
complement the case management carried out by DIAC; and
provide a point of reference for the Health Services Manager.
Serco must participate in a weekly department review of the individual
management plans with the Regional Management of DIAC and the Health Services
Manager, or more frequently as directed by DIAC.
The contract also requires Serco to allocate each detainee to a staff member,
as part of the Personal Officer Scheme (POS).
The Commonwealth Ombudsman, other oversight agencies and the
Hawke-Williams Review have reported concerns that in some facilities, due to
the high number of detainees and pressure on Serco staffing levels, Serco has
not been compliant with these requirements. Dr Hawke and Ms Williams observed
that the personal officer scheme had not been fully implemented on Christmas
Island or Villawood IDC. Individual Management Plans were not in place for all
detainees on Christmas Island, and those that were in place were not being
Serco acknowledged in its submission to the inquiry that the Personal
Officer Scheme was not in place in all facilities due to 'external pressures':
This program is yet to be implemented in some facilities, due
to difficulties created by overcrowding and other external pressures. Serco
believes that the Personal Officer program is extremely valuable and is
committed to deploying it universally once circumstances allow. In the meantime,
in facilities where it has not yet been possible to implement the program, Serco
ensures that all employees are trained to make certain that clients feel able
to communicate all issues without fear of negative consequences.
Mr Steve Johnson, State Director South Australia, explained to the Committee
that the implementation of the Personal Officer Scheme is audited by the local
DIAC contract manager at each facility. For example, in South Australia:
The implementation of the Personal Officer Scheme is one of
the contract performance measures which is audited by the DIAC contract team on
each of the sites in South Australia. We have a performance metric. We look at
a range of the performance issues which lead to that abatement or incentive
scheme...The Personal Officer Scheme is audited in terms of the number of
entries, the regularity of entries, around the case noting by Serco staff
against their individual client allocations... we organise an audit program to
deal with what we think are the pertinent issues for each particular site in
terms of ensuring the optimum performance and dealing with issues which we
think are contemporary at that particular place.
DIAC advised the Committee that the Personal Officer Scheme had been audited
once during the previous 12 months at Northern IDC and the Darwin Airport Lodge
Alternative Places of Detention.
The Committee believes that the Personal Officer Scheme and Individual
Management Plans are important mechanisms to support people in detention. The Committee
notes that DIAC has accepted a recommendation from the Hawke-Williams Review in
relation to improved monitoring of these programs and that the Auditor-General
is currently conducting an audit of DIAC's management of Serco's compliance
with these contractual obligations.
Programs and activities
Serco is required to provide meaningful programs and activities to
people in detention. This must consist of structured and unstructured programs,
both within the facility and on supervised external excursions. Two programs
must be provided per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The
contract does not say whether this means that two activities must be available
to each detainee a day, or whether there just needs to be two activities each
day in each centre.  Serco advised the Committee
that it interprets this requirement broadly and provides more than two
activities a day per a centre.
Since the surge in arrivals in late 2009, Serco has struggled to meet
the requirements of the contract for provision of activities. In part this is due
to a lack of facilities. For example, recreational rooms on Christmas Island
and at Curtin IDC were used to accommodate detainees, while other facilities
such as Northern IDC were not properly equipped to begin with.
The challenge has also arisen because of a lack of suitable staff to run the
activity programs and the increased risk profile of detainees.
The members of the Council for Immigration Services and Status
Resolution (CISSR) documented concerns about Serco's provision of programs and
activities in 2010, particularly in Villawood IDC and Christmas Island.
CISSR tracked Serco's work in this area and was able to identify improvements
over time. In June 2011 Serco presented information to CISSR about its new
activities model and pilot scheme of activities for single adult men, single
adult women, minors and families. The Chair of CISSR, Mr Paris Aristotle, was
critical of Serco. The minutes record Mr Aristotle asking:
[W]hen [will] the concept...move into actual activities given
that Serco is contractually obliged to provide these activities now and isn’t
delivering. He asserted the project is a good exercise but was concerned it
would only further delay implementation of activities.
The Chair questioned why there are no penalties on Serco
given they have had three years to deliver these activities. As good as the
proposed model may be he stressed that something needs to be done now.
During the CISSR meeting DIAC is recorded as observing that the
abatements it had imposed on Serco for failing to meet activities requirements had
not resulted in 'the impacts needed but should also be balanced against the
necessary speed of upscale in the system'.
The Hawke-Williams Review found that at the time of the incidents at
Christmas Island and Villawood, March and April 2011, meaningful programs were
not fully operational, and made recommendations for the program to be
The AHRC visited Curtin IDC in May 2011 and reported a number of
concerns relating to programs and activities available to detainees. The AHRC
recommended that DIAC improve the facilities available to detainees, and ensure
that Serco provided a sufficient number of meaningful activities as required by
the contract. The Australian Human Rights Commission noted that many
recreational buildings had been converted to accommodation dormitories, the
playing field was under construction and there were insufficient telephones and
In late February 2012 the Committee asked DIAC to provide an update on
the status of the implementation of the Hawke-Williams recommendations in
relation to activities. DIAC informed the Committee that progress had been
made, but there is still a way to go. Mr Ken Douglas told the Committee:
There is an active working group that comprises people from
both the department and Serco who are presently working their way through a
detailed set of programs and activities to enhance what is already being rolled
out. That working group is expected to come back to the department with its
findings in the course of the next few weeks, so we should expect to see some
further increased activity in this area in the next month or two.
The Committee recognises that activities within the detention centre
environment are important for detainees. This reality is reflected in the
detention services contract. However, as the Hawke-Williams Review noted, Serco
has failed to provide activities to the standard required by the contract.
Hawke-Williams recommended that Serco and DIAC deploy a revamped programs and
activities model. This recommendation was accepted by DIAC, and Serco is
developing a revised activities model.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship continue to robustly contract manage Serco's obligation to provide
appropriate activities for detainees.
The Committee observed during site inspections that while DIAC has
planned improvements for a number of facilities, such as Northern IDC and
Villawood IDC, the amenity of such facilities is greatly reduced during the
construction phase. For example, when the Committee visited Northern IDC it
viewed plans for new playing fields.
The Committee is concerned that during the construction phase, which can run
into months and sometimes years, detainees do not have adequate access to open
areas for exercise. At Villawood IDC the Committee also viewed detailed plans
for improvements to Villawood IDC, a project which is due to be completed in
Again, the Committee is concerned in this instance of the loss of amenity that
may be inconsistent with the immigration detention values.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship consider other accommodation or recreation options for detainees
when the amenity of a facility is compromised due to construction or
Serco's ability to subcontract
Under its contract with DIAC, Serco may subcontract some services.
For example, Serco has engaged MSS Security and Wilson Security to provide
assistance with security at IDCs. Subcontracted security staff are intended to supplement
rather than replace Serco officers. Serco described the distinction between its
officers and contracted staff:
Serco officers continue to occupy positions that require
direct client contact and subcontracted staff are generally allocated to roles
with relatively minimal client interaction (such as perimeter security and
staffing surveillance or monitoring stations).
Serco explained in its submission the standard of service delivery
required by its contractors:
Both MSS Security and Wilson Security are required to hold
all appropriate licences and staff made available to Serco must have
appropriate expertise and qualifications sufficient to enable them to be
authorised as officers under the Act. Regular checks are undertaken to verify
that subcontractors’ licences and qualifications are in order. Were either MSS Security
or Wilson Security to fail to meet the required standards, they would be exposed
to contractual penalties including, potentially, termination.
The Committee received evidence during hearings which raised concerns
about the roles that contracted security staff performed in some IDCs,
particularly on Christmas Island. Ms Kaye Bernard, General Secretary,
Union of Christmas Island Workers told the Committee that the distinction
between MSS guards and Serco officers was not clear in practice, and that
detention centres are altered when politicians visit:
MSS work in all positions within the detention facilities as...client
service officers or detention officers. They work in all areas. When
politicians come to town, things change. My understanding is that there was a
drag to pull the MSS workers out, those who are not meant to be—or who the
committee has been told are not meant to be—in the compounds.
United Voice, the union that represents about 80 per cent of Serco
Immigration Officers on mainland Australia, reported that for the most part
subcontracted security staff 'are used exclusively for security purposes and do
not engage with detainees'.
However, it has been reported to United Voice from mainland officers who have
gone on secondment to Christmas Island facilities, that MSS security guards are
being used there more extensively. United Voice reported:
Members sent on recent secondments to Christmas Island
confirm this, saying that MSS Security guards were being deployed in all areas
of the IDC at North West Point, including as escorts for interviews and
activities. The Serco-employed officers at the centre reportedly manage the
situation by providing the MSS guards on-the-job training in order to prevent
serious incidents from arising. However, the use of untrained subcontractor
staff inside detention centres creates unnecessary risks for both staff and
The Committee asked Serco to respond to these concerns. Serco reiterated
its intention that MSS officers have a different and distinct role to Serco
officers and are not generally in contact with detainees. During the Darwin
hearing Mr Chris Manning, Managing Director, Serco, told the Committee:
The role of MSS is typically to provide additional security
on perimeters, which allows Serco to free up staff to carry out the duties that
are provided for in the contract. Day to day there are many MSS staff operating
around the network, and they will fulfil those responsibilities. From time to
time there may be a local variation, but in general terms that is their role.
During the course of the inquiry the Committee received a sample of
incident reports produced by DIAC.
In one report, a detainee was found wounded in his room by a MSS officer. The
presence of the MSS officer appeared to be inconsistent with assurances
provided by Serco about the role of contractors. The Committee asked DIAC to
comment on Serco's use of security subcontractors, in the context of the
incident report. Mr John Moorhouse informed the Committee:
We have tried to be brutally honest. We do not want to gild
the lily in terms of what we are dealing with. In relation to that particular
incident it is absolutely true that people who provide security services should
not be dealing with clients. But I am pleased that, as any other Australian
would, when they saw someone in a situation of need they helped. You do not
say, 'It's not my job; I'm going to wait for the right person to come along.' I
think that incident report needs to be seen in that context. It is not the
situation that should happen. The MSS guards should be providing perimeter
security and that is the end of it—not necessarily perimeter security, but
security for particular facilities.
The Committee urges DIAC to remain vigilant in auditing this aspect of
the contract with Serco. The issue is more profound on Christmas Island than in
mainland facilities, perhaps in part because of Serco's difficulty is
attracting suitable numbers of qualified staff. The Committee believes that MSS
officers are less likely to encroach on the role of Serco officers where the
ratio of Serco officers to detainees is appropriate.
Adequate Serco officer staffing
A recurring issue as the Committee travelled to detention facilities and
held hearings was the ratio of detention centre staff to detainees. Inadequate
staffing numbers can have an adverse impact on detainees, Serco officers and
security. The contract does not stipulate the ratio of Serco staff to
detainees. Serco is simply required to provide sufficient numbers of adequately
trained staff to provide a proper service.
The Union of Christmas Island workers reported that employees had raised
concerns about staff to detainee ratios since 2009, but had not observed any
improvement in this area.
United Voice reported that 72 per cent of members it surveyed felt like the
immigration facility they worked in was under staffed, and this was their
principal complaint. Mr David McElrea explained to the Committee during the
Sydney hearing the impact this has on a centre:
The principal problem is a lack of staffing, a lack of people
on the ground to deal with issues and to deal with what might happen in the
course of the day. If people have to take detainees off site and there is an
escort, your numbers drop and all of a sudden you can be left with one person for,
say, 200, which is unsafe for the staff member and also for the detainees.
DIAC advised the Committee that it did not require a particular level of
staffing in detention centres, it was concerned with outcomes:
[W]e have contract managers and detention operations staff
who are responsible for making sure that the outcomes are delivered, that the
facility is managed properly and that the services that are meant to be
delivered are delivered. The government has contracted Serco because of its
expertise in managing facilities to appropriately manage this contract and the
detention facilities. It would be simply inappropriate for us to then say, 'We
don't trust you to make the appropriate judgments and we're going to monitor
your deployment of staff and tell you how to do the work.
DIAC emphasised that while it would not dictate staffing numbers to
Serco, it was still interested in Serco's staffing levels, particularly where
this impacted on the quality of services provided to detainees and security:
I would not want to give the impression that we are not
interested in what Serco's staffing levels are. They are the subject of quite
active and quite vigorous dialogue at times. There have been a number of issues
in relation to this, including the availability of adequate staff for things
like programs and activities as new facilities were being stood up and also the
issue I mentioned in terms of what was Serco's role in relation to public order
management or the good order of the facilities. So there have been a number of
aspects of the operation of the centres that have been the subject of active
and sometimes vigorous dialogue between us.
DIAC assured the Committee that it will, and has, imposed abatements on
Serco for breaches of the contract that occur as a result of low staff numbers.
For example, if insufficient activities are provided or if a detainee absconds.
As discussed earlier, abatements do not always result in a change in behaviour.
The Committee asked DIAC to respond to the United Voice Survey results.
DIAC advised that determining an ideal ratio of staff to detainees was a
[The] the level of staffing in a centre varies over the
course of the year in anticipation of the number and type of people who will be
positioned in that centre. So, at any given point in time, it is likely that
people will have a view about whether or not the staffing is adequate. The
number on any given day is likely to be affected by unscheduled absences. There
are a whole range of factors. If I can reflect on my own personal experience, I
do not think I have worked in a single workplace in my career where the
majority of people in that workplace believed they had sufficient staff to do
It is a really difficult set of interpretations...where we
have focused most of our attention is on whether the staffing and activity
levels provided in a centre are sufficient to meet that centre's needs in terms
of programs and activities, in terms of access to services and amenities, and
in terms of meeting the company's commitment to us about the activities or the
way that it would engage with the clients of those centres. It is a matter we
take under constant review, but I also think at times it is a 'how long is a
piece of string' question...[R]eally the issue is whether or not there are
activities and engagement with the clients and whether the services that are undertaken
to be provided are being delivered. No doubt everybody at some stage would like
to think that, with more staff, they could do better.
The Committee is concerned that the staff to detainee ratio can be
further diluted by the requirement that Serco officers must escort detainees
during activities outside the centre, for example, to attend the emergency
department. Serco assured the Committee that the staffing levels are determined
to manage this risk:
The staffing profiles that are developed take into account
the requirement to provide transport and escort activities. That could include
school and trips to the medical centre. There is a proportion of staffing built
into the daily entitlement at that centre to support those activities. Of
course, if there is an emergency or a significant number of clients are going
on an excursion, it would be reasonable to expect that some of the staff from
the centre would accompany that particular excursion, because the majority, or
a fair proportion, of the clients could be outside with the excursion.
Sometimes additional staffing services this will mean that Serco can
recover a further payment from DIAC. The Committee asked in what circumstances
this would occur:
For example, additional security staff may be needed if an
infrastructure project is underway. That would obviously fall within the
infrastructure project costs. By and large, the routine management of the
centre would fall within the fixed price of the contract, but there are
examples where we would seek recovery of additional costs.
Comcare found that DIAC failed to comply with health and safety
obligations in relation to staffing ratios, including in relation to Serco
staffing levels. Comcare advised that:
DIAC failed to have a staff/detainee ratio level identified
and implemented. Nor did it have a system for ensuring that ratios are adjusted
according to identified levels of risk. In doing so, it failed to take all
reasonably practicable steps to provide a working environment (including
systems of work) that was safe for DIAC employees and contractors (and without
risk to their health).
Comcare recommended that as part of a comprehensive risk assessment DIAC
should document a staff/detainee ratio and identify adequate levels of staff
and coping strategies if the optimum ratio is unachievable at a particular
Dr Hawke and Ms Williams also identified a staffing shortage at North
West Point in the lead up to the riots and recommended that DIAC agree on a
system for collecting Serco staffing metrics and assessing staffing capability
at each centre and that this be distributed for use across the network.
The Committee remains concerned about the staff to detainee ratios in
many immigration detention centres. The Committee notes DIAC's acceptance of
the Hawke-Williams Review recommendations that DIAC conduct robust auditing of
Serco staffing levels. This would involve collecting Serco staffing metrics and
assessing staffing capability, and ensuring both are adequate to respond to the
risk profile of each detention facility.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship conduct robust auditing of Serco staffing ratios and training, in
line with the recommendations in the Comcare report and the Hawke-Williams Review.
Serco's incident reporting
The contract outlines the process that Serco must follow when reporting
incidents. Serco is required to provide a verbal report of an incident within a
specified period and to record the incident on DIAC's system. Serco must also
maintain an Incident Management Log. This log details the time, date, and
location of the incident and action taken.
Serco must also work to prevent incidents arising, and manage the length and
extent of incidents once they arise.
The Committee received evidence that questioned the adequacy of Serco's
incident reporting, and was particularly concerned by allegations made by the
Union of Christmas Island Workers that Serco does not report all incidents.
The Committee asked Serco to respond to this allegation. Serco acknowledged the
seriousness of the claim and rejected it. Mr John Couttie, Deputy Regional
Manager, Serco, told the Committee:
I would refute the matter most strongly. As I am sure you are
all aware, the contract that we work under comes under the closest scrutiny
from the department, and the department work hand in hand with us on a daily
basis and are therefore aware of any incidents that take place. All incidents
that take place are also recorded in the department's database, known as
PORTAL. I think if you look, for example, at last month, we recorded over 400
incidents, raising from minor all the way through to critical. There is clear
evidence that we document and, in fact, report every single incident from
minor, as I say, through to critical.
Comcare found that DIAC was not properly reporting incidents to Comcare.
While DIAC had improved its incident reporting in recent months, Comcare observed
that it still often becomes aware of incidents in detention centres through
media reports rather than through DIAC.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman's Office is also dissatisfied with Serco's
incident reporting, advising the Committee:
The Ombudsman has investigated complaints and matters arising
from detention reviews and visits to detention centres which have raised
serious concerns about the consistency, competency and integrity of incident
reporting within the detention network.
For example, the Commonwealth Ombudsman observed that incident reporting
into allegations of sexual assault contained inaccuracies and omissions of
crucial material. Further, competent and consistent descriptions of the
circumstances of the matter and action taken by Serco are lacking and detainee
witness statements are not routinely taken.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman suggested that DIAC conduct a review of the
quality and management of incident reporting across immigration detention
network, and also assess Serco's capacity to monitor its own compliance with
the reporting guidelines.
The Committee remains concerned about Serco's incident reporting. The Committee
recognises Serco's intention to report all incidents, however, queries the
adequacy of the reporting that is provided.
The Committee reiterates the recommendation made by the Commonwealth
Ombudsman that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, conduct a review
of the quality and management of incident reporting across immigration
detention network, and also assess Serco's capacity to monitor its own
compliance with the reporting guidelines.
Training of staff
As part of its obligations under the contract, Serco staff must meet
minimum training standards.
Serco must employ two levels of custodial staff:
Client Service Managers (CSMs)
Client Service Officers (CSOs)
CSMs have a Certificate Level IV in Security Operation (or equivalent)
and a minimum of five years experience in managing security. CSOs have a
Certificate II in Security Operations (or equivalent) or can obtain
these qualifications within six months of commencing employment.
Both classifications are responsible for ensuring that detainees are safe,
secure and are required to personally interact with detainees on a daily basis.
Serco advised the Committee that all CSOs complete a one month induction
course that includes training in:
cultural awareness and cross-cultural communication;
mental health awareness and suicide awareness;
duty of care owed to clients, Immigration Detention Values and
other key principles in relation to immigration detention and the Act;
client interaction and general communication skills;
induction, reception and visitation procedures;
maintaining logs and registers;
welfare and occupancy checks;
use of reasonable force in immigration detention;
security screening, search powers and control, defensive and
occupational health, safety and the environment;
incident management protocols;
working with children and child protection issues; and
emergency response and contingency plans.
The Committee is aware of a number of concerns raised by advocacy groups,
peak bodies, unions and staff about the standard of training for Serco officers.
Comcare found that DIAC had failed to ensure that Serco staff were sufficiently
trained and therefore competent and confident to perform their roles.
Particular concerns were also raised about the adequacy of mental health
training received by Serco officers. During the Sydney hearing, Serco acknowledged
that this consisted of 4.5 hours during induction training.
During the Christmas Island hearings Ms Kaye Bernard, from the Union of
Christmas Island Workers, told the Committee that Serco officers she had spoken
to were concerned about a lack of training:
They are very concerned because they believe that they are
ill equipped to deal with what they are dealing with out there in particular in
relation to the mental health of some of the people that they are posted on
SASH watch with. If it is a high-risk person they are meant to stand at arm's
length from that person.
Some Serco workers also reported to Ms Bernard that they had not
completed the four week induction program before commencing work:
They are being trained on the floor. Serco say in their
advertisement that it is a four-week training course. Some of our members, most
recently a group from Perth, believe they were misled as to the training that
was going to be delivered to them. They did 10 days in Perth and then were told
that the rest of their training would be undertaken on Christmas Island. They
thought they were coming to a training school here on Christmas Island and that
was not the case. They were put into the detention facility and in control of
compounds after 10 days and after not receiving the certificate II in security
operations. They were put in there on their own. Many of them were put in there
without even having a facilities induction, so they did not actually know where
Ms Bernard made the point that a number of improvements had occurred
recently at Christmas Island since the new Regional Manager had arrived, as he
had commenced implementing the training requirements that are in place under
the contract. 
United Voice identified a number of weaknesses in Serco's training. The
general complaint was that training was inadequate, and the training that was
provided was generally inappropriate to the particular work environment.
Particular issues raised by members include:
The four week induction training is only three weeks of actual
training, and one week on the floor of a detention facility;
The first intake of staff at Inverbrackie APOD started working
before the induction training had been completed;
Some staff sent to Christmas Island on secondment reported that
they were not provided with site-specific induction training, or taught about
incident reporting; and
Insufficient weight is placed on cultural awareness and mental
A survey conducted by United Voice indicated that its members
particularly want more mental health, human rights, and suicide prevention
training. They also do not feel equipped to dispense medication to detainees
once IHMS staff have left for the day.
United Voice advised the Committee that Serco had responded to the
concerns that it raised about training and significant improvements had been
Mr David McElrea attributed the improvement to a combination of union
representation, the Comcare inquiry and this parliamentary inquiry. Mr McElrea
noted that training for the most recent Pontville facility recruits was of a
high standard, and hoped that this would continue.
Dr Hawke and Ms Williams observed that while training provided by Serco
to staff appeared to be well designed and tailored to particular roles, 'it was
not possible on the evidence available to determine whether all of their staff
had received appropriate training or were appropriately qualified'.
DIAC has a role in monitoring the training provided to Serco officers as
part of its contact management processes. DIAC was able to
advise how many staff had received refreshed training, but was not able to
comment on how many staff had not received training.
DIAC expressed concern over the training of Serco officers, commenting that the
officers may meet the requirements of the contract, but this requirement may
not be high enough to equip officers to perform their duties:
It is the case that client service officers can begin their
duty without having the full qualification they need, but they are given
specific, limited roles and mentored by an experienced person until they have
the qualifications. So they do not have the full qualifications, but they do
meet the requirements of the contract. It is not what we would like—we would
like everyone to be fully trained—but they are, in a sense, qualified in the
terms of contract. That is probably the wrong way of putting it, but they do
meet the requirements of the contract if they have limited duties and they are
Client Service Officers (CSOs) are required to have a Certificate II in
Security Operations (or equivalent) or be able to obtain these qualifications
within six months of commencing employment. Given the cultural diversity in
detention centres, the risk profiles of detainees and the high rate of self
harm the Committee is concerned that the standard of training required for CSOs
is inadequate for the demands of this position, particularly as full
qualification is not necessarily required from a CSO's commencement. The Committee
appreciates that this standard of training is set by the contract, but
considers that consideration to should be given to revising the standard.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship appoint an independent expert to inquire into the appropriate qualifications
for Serco Client Service Officers and make appropriate amendments to its
contract with Serco.
Implementation of DIAC'S Psychological Support Program
The Committee has concerns about Serco's implementation of DIAC's Psychological
Support Program (PSP) through its own Keep Safe Psychological Support Program
Policy (Keep Safe).
Both policies are designed to support detainees at risk of self harm or
suicide. The Committee is especially concerned about the ability of individual
Serco officers to implement these policies.
As discussed in Chapter 2, the PSP policy is jointly administered by
DIAC, Serco and IHMS. Once a detainee is put on the PSP, the detainee is reviewed
every 12 hours by IHMS. In addition there is a meeting every day between DIAC,
IHMS and Serco to consider the ongoing support needs of the detainee.
During site visits the Committee witnessed many detainees sitting or
standing with a Serco officer in very close proximity at a number of facilities
across the network. Serco officers told the Committee that the detainees were
on suicide watch, requiring the officer to stay within 1.5 metres of the
detainee, and check on them every 30 minutes. A psychologist employed by IHMS
on Christmas Island during 2010 explained the process:
One of the most available and frequently used methods the
mental health team would use was to put the client on suicide watch (referred
to as "SASH OBS" by staff at that time) with or without the client's
consent. This would usually [mean] that (at that time) an untrained Serco
officer was given responsibility to care for and accompany an acutely suicidal
client through a very difficult time for the next 24 hours, at least.
I would hear varying accounts of what kind of 'care' the
Serco officer would be able to offer. Some were very good at being a kind and
beneficent presence that the person needed to shepherd them back to mental
stability, while I heard that others just said "hello" every now and
then and made sure they had not created a noose for themselves with their bed
sheets while they were not looking.
The constant monitoring of the SASH OBS intervention would
often be perceived as punitive by the client, and (depending on which type of
"care" was offered by the Serco officer) would sometimes increase the
detainee's distress and paranoia about the situation they were in.
DIAC, IHMS and Serco all told the Committee that this approach was not
dictated by the PSP or the Keep Safe policies. During the Sydney hearing IHMS
confirmed that the requirement that Serco officers be within an arms length of
a detainee on suicide watch was not an IHMS policy, or approved by IHMS.
The Keep Safe policy does not specify that Serco officers must maintain
a distance of 1.5 metres from detainees who are at risk of self harm, but it
does specify that Serco must provide 'constant one-on-one monitoring of and
engagement with the individual in a safe and secure place'.
During the Melbourne hearing, Serco advised the Committee that the Keep Safe
procedure had been prepared by Serco, in consultation with IHMS and DIAC:
The best way to describe the policies and procedures within
the detention environment is that there is a hierarchy of procedures and
procedural guidance. The PSP policy is implemented by Serco, and it is the
overarching policy by which we manage the PSP. We have written an additional
policy that supports that document. Its principal aim is to provide our
management and our staff on the ground with procedural guidance—things such as
standardised documentation to be able to support the PSP.
The person who monitors the Keep Safe policy in Serco appears to be
qualified to perform that role.
Serco was at pains to emphasise that the Keep Safe policy was developed in
light of the PSP policy.
The Detention Health Advisory Group (DeHAG) confirmed that it had no
involvement in developing the Keep Safe policy, and indeed considered the
implementation on the policy to be extremely damaging to detainees.
Professor Louise Newman, Chair, explained why the policy was so concerning:
We have advised the department of this in the development of
the PSP approach, that what was called the suicide and self-harm, or SASH,
policy that Serco was operating with was contributing to people getting worse
and more agitated. We have been trying to get a bit of a cultural change around
that. We only had that sort of level of observation, when someone really needed
to go to hospital and should not have been maintained in detention for
immediate safety concerns. It is not best practice and in most cases it is
contraindicated. Part of the issue is the lack of training, and we are trying
to get information on the lack of roll-out of training on basic mental health
processes and how to actually deal with these situations, particularly for
Serco, who are not trained. They should not necessarily be seen as clinicians
but they have an important role in being the front line in response to
Professor Newman advised that the Department had initiated a response in
relation to these concerns, and an advisory panel had been established.
However, in her view progress on this review had 'stalled'.
DeHAG placed responsibility with Serco for not implementing the policy
correctly, but also with DIAC for failing to properly contract manage Serco's
The Australian Human Rights Commission expressed 'serious' concern about
the implementation of the PSP policy across the network:
The Commission also remains seriously concerned about the
ongoing selfharm that is occurring in immigration detention facilities. The
prevention of self-harm in detention and psychological support for people at
risk of self-harm are addressed by DIAC's Psychological Support Program policy
(PSP policy). The Commission is concerned that the PSP policy has not been
adequately implemented across the detention network. In particular, the
Commission has been concerned during a number of detention visits to learn that
many staff have not received PSP training. It is not appropriate that
monitoring is done by Serco staff who do not have appropriate qualifications or
training. There is a need for a national framework for the delivery of PSP training
on a rolling basis to ensure that all relevant Serco, DIAC and IHMS staff are
provided with initial and refresher training.
The Committee asked DIAC whether it had any ongoing concerns about
Serco's implementation of the PSP policy. DIAC explained that it had discussed
this issue with Serco:
There was a point where we had to ensure that the policies
that we were applying were reflected adequately in the Serco policies. The
SERCO Keep SAFE policies were policies that they had brought as an international
organisation dealing with a number of different scenarios, prisoners and so on,
where people are in detention and needing care. Our psychological support
program in many respects overlapped with Serco's Keep SAFE program and we have
had to make sure that their policies align with our expectations. There was a
period when that was a subject of active negotiation.
In late 2011 DIAC advised that it had recently developed a revised
mental health awareness training program which had been piloted and now was
being rolled out to Serco, DIAC and IHMS staff.
The evidence before the Committee suggests that the problem is not necessarily
with the Keep Safe policy, but its implementation by officers who have not had
adequate training. The Committee fervently hopes that once this training is
complete some of the issues identified above will be addressed.
The Committee is concerned that Serco's implementation of DIAC's
Psychological Support Program through its Keep Safe policy may not achieve the outcomes
intended. The Committee is especially concerned by criticism of the policy by
the Detention Health Advisory Group, who argued that Serco's on-the-ground
implementation of the policy may be harmful to detainees. The Committee also
received evidence that Serco officers have not received sufficient mental
health training to properly implement the Keep Safe policy.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship effectively contract manage Serco's implementation of the
Psychological Support Program Policy.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship work with Serco and the Detention Health Advisory Group to reform
the Keep Safe policy to ensure it is consistent with the Psychological Support
Program Policy, as soon as possible.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship ensures that Serco provides adequate Detention Health Advisory
Group-endorsed mental health training to Serco officers who implement the
Psychological Support Program Policy.
Support for Serco officers
The Committee received evidence from Serco employees and unions that
criticised the adequacy of support provided to Serco officers, particularly following
The unions also advised that many Serco employees felt ill-equipped
to handle the heightened tension and despair in immigration facilities.
During the hearings on Christmas Island, Ms Kaye Bernard, General
Secretary of the Union of Christmas Island Workers advised the Committee:
[Serco officers] are very concerned because they believe that
they are ill equipped to deal with what they are dealing with out there in
particular in relation to the mental health of some of the people that they are
posted on SASH watch with. If it is a high-risk person they are meant to stand
at arm's length from that person.
A similar concern was expressed by Mr David McElrea of United Voice
during the Sydney hearings. Mr McElrea described the support provided to
detainees as 'quite limited', explaining
I know there is the employee assistance service that Serco
provides, but I do not think there is any proactive support. Our members feel
somewhat abandoned with respect to things like cutting people down, dealing
with self-harm and so forth. I do not think they feel like they are adequately
supported or there is enough of a proactive attempt to speak to them about how
that might be affecting them. I have spoken to them. Some of them are big tough
blokes and they break down talking about it. I am sure you have spoken to them
yourselves. I think the assistance that is provided is quite typical of this
company. There are great glossy brochures and paper systems, but on the ground
it is quite lacking.
United Voice also cited a number of disturbing examples of threats being
made against Serco staff.
Following questioning by the Committee, DIAC has reported 871 incidents of
alleged or witnesses inappropriate behaviour by detainees towards Serco
officers, during 1 October 2009 to 30 June 2011.
Serco provides support to employees through its Employee Assistance
Program. This program makes counselling and psychological support available to
employees free of charge.
Serco assured the Committee that it was serious about supporting its workers,
We have the employee assistance program. We are particularly
focused on ensuring our staff have the right support. We care passionately
about their safety and wellbeing. We have a process in place to call upon an
employee assistance program which would provide for counsellors to come on to
the site to talk to the staff. There would be other actions carried out by
management to make sure that the staff were properly cared for and had the opportunity
to reflect on what had happened. We also employ permanent,
appropriately-qualified psychologists to support that process as well. Serco
outlined recent improvements that it had made to its training program for
officers, including regular refresher training.
Serco informed the Committee of the steps taken to support staff
following a serious incident, explaining that:
We do critical incident debriefing and, if we do have a
serious incident, one of the two full-time psychologists will attend that centre
as soon as possible and provide ongoing critical-incident debriefing to those
staff at the centre. They will identify any people that we feel could be at
risk and maintain contact with those individuals. Then they will follow that up
if necessary with more specialist support as required.
The number of workers compensation claims across the network appear
high. For example, Serco advised that as at 31 October 2011 there were 14 live
workers compensation claims at Northern IDC and there were 13 at Inverbrackie
The Committee asked DIAC whether it had discussed the high rate of claims among
Serco staff. DIAC advised the Committee that this was a matter for Serco, not
In addition to the obvious impact of self harm on detainees, the Committee
recognises that the high rates of self harm adversely impact Serco Officers. Mr John Moorhouse
recognised the unusually difficult environment that Serco and DIAC staff work
It is not something that most people in the working community
have to face in their job; it is a profoundly challenging thing to have to deal
with people who are self-harming. I want to convey a sense that we do
understand the pressures on Serco staff. We want to support them to the extent
we can with proper training and also, very importantly, we want to try to
reduce some of the profound challenges they are facing through better
management of facilities, through better management of behaviour and through
reduction in self harm. I would like to put on the record that we have had substantial
reduction in the level of self-harm since August. I think that comes not just
from reducing populations but from more active management of these issues,
better staff capability, and a range of other issues which we have been trying
to put in place.
In its report on the Curtin IDC, the AHRC expressed concern about the
impact that a lack of training had on Serco officers who were required to
conduct the Psychological Support Program observation.
This view was reflected by United Voice, who told the Committee that the
support provided by Serco to staff was limited, and reactive rather
DIAC reported that 1800 staff had received general mental health training as
part of the Psychological Support Program Policy rollout in 2010, however were
not able to identify how many staff had not received this training.
The Committee recognises that working in a detention centre environment
can be challenging at times. The Committee notes that in some facilities
detainee threats of self harm and actual self harm occur daily, and Serco staff
have high rates of workers' compensation claims. The Committee believes that
adequate counselling and training can go some way to relieving the pressures
felt by some Serco officers.
The Committee recommends that Serco develop and implement improved
proactive procedures to support staff following critical incidents.
The Serco confirmed during the Sydney hearing that Serco officers are
required under the contract to carry out secondary dispensing of medication. Mr
McIntosh explained to the Committee:
We have a very detailed and comprehensive policy that covers
the issuing of secondary medication. There are a number of clear guidelines. It
needs to be done under the written direction of the health services manager,
the senior IHMS person. It is only carried out during the hours that IHMS are
not in attendance. There is very detailed documentation that needs to be
provided. The medication is handed over from IHMS to the Serco staff at the end
of the IHMS shift. It is provided in blister packs or Webster packs. Serco
staff are not unscrewing vials of pills and issuing the pills from there. It is
prepackaged and provided with very clear directions on how it is to be issued
to the clients. But we are happy to provide that policy also on notice if
Serco advised the committee that Serco officers are not directed to
dispense medication and staff who dispense medication do so voluntarily. Those
who do assist are usually 'relatively senior staff members and are paid at a
slightly higher rate.' The Serco officers who do dispense medication receive
local on the job training from IHMS.
Professor Louise Newman, Chair of the Detention Health Advisory Group advised
the committee that in her professional view, Serco officers should not be
dispensing medication, as they are not properly trained to do so.
During the Adelaide hearings, the Committee asked Serco to comment on
what would happen if a Serco officer accidentally gave the wrong medicine to a
person. Serco confirmed that staff provide the relevant dosage prepared by IHMS
in a blister pack to the detainee, and the detainee administers the medication
In relation to liability, Serco advised:
The employer would be responsible for certain elements of the
administration of its staff, including to provide the appropriate training and
so on, and that is how we would apply every case and review every case on a
case-by-case basis. Clearly you would not expect an employer to say that in all
obvious cases there was no liability by any employee, but clearly there are
degrees. If there were negligence, for example, there would be degrees of
negligence. But in general terms my understanding is that the employer is
responsible for the actions of its staff. Any employer would be, in accordance
with Australian law.
The Committee was unable to form a view on whether or not junior staff
were required to dispense medication to detainees. Serco has advised the Committee
that only senior managers at some facilities dispense medication, and that a rigorous
process is followed. However the Committee is aware of claims that junior
officers who feel that they have not had adequate training have nonetheless
been required to dispense medication. The Committee accepts that if this has
occurred, it is not in line with Serco procedures. The Committee also accepts
that primary dispensing of medication is done by trained and appropriately
qualified IHMS staff.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship ensure Serco has appropriate procedures and training in place so
that only where International Health and Medical Services personnel are not
available can senior Serco managers participate in the secondary dispensing of
Serco's role in providing security services
Serco acknowledges that it has a responsibility to provide security
services in IDCs, in collaboration with DIAC, the Australian Federal Police and
local state or territory police.
Disturbances in IDCs during 2011 highlighted a need to clarify the extent to
which Serco is responsible for ensuring good order in centres it manages. The
Hawke-Williams Review particularly concerned itself with this question, and
this is discussed in Chapter 8.
Serco describes its security model as a combination of 'dynamic
security' which 'overlays established security systems'. Dynamic security is apparently
an approach that focuses on the interaction between staff and detainees.
This approach, while arguably consistent with the Immigration Detention Values,
is not an effective approach when faced by people who are non-compliant with
Serco observes that the Minister is specifically granted powers under
section 273 of the Migration Act to establish and maintain detention
centres. The Minister may also make regulations in relation to the operation
and regulation of IDCs, including in relation to supervising detainees. Serco
accepts and supports the strict limits on the powers that it may exercise in
relation to detainees, particularly in relation to the use of force during
However, Serco believes that this has resulted in a lack of clarity
about its role and the limits of its powers. Serco explained to the Committee:
As a consequence, there is insufficient clarity for detention
centre operators around the limits on their obligations and powers in relation
to use of force, to ensure the good order and control of immigration detention facilities.
For this reason Serco has highlighted to the Committee a need for final
and binding interagency co-operation and communications protocols between
Serco, DIAC, the AFP and relevant local police.
The Committee understands that such a protocol is currently being drafted and
is in the final stages of negotiation.
Following the disturbances in Villawood and on Christmas Island in early
2011, DIAC has worked with Serco to increase its emergency response
capabilities. Serco has trained over 90 staff to be part of the Emergency
Response Team (ERT), and is working towards equipping a total of 120 people in
The Hawke-Williams Report considered this issue as well, finding that
the lack of clarity around Serco's role contributed to the delayed response to
the riots. Serco's role in providing security services is discussed in more
detail in Chapter 8.
The Committee recognises the importance of Serco having a clear
understanding of its power and responsibilities for security. The Hawke–Williams
Review illustrates problems that can arise during a serious disturbance when
all relevant parties do not know where their responsibility begins and ends.
Consistent with the findings of the Hawke-Williams Review, the Committee
recommends that the government finalise a security protocol between Serco, the Australian
Federal Police and local police in each state and territory.
As discussed in Chapter 2, DIAC and Serco have agreed on a process for
arranging visits in detention facilities. Generally, an online form must be
completed and lodged at least 24 hours prior to the visit containing the
prospective visitor's details and the reason for the visit.
During the hearings in Darwin, Darwin Asylum Seekers Support and
Advocacy Network explained to the Committee that their members find it
difficult to arrange visits in the NIDC. Forms must be lodged not only 24 hours
before the intended visit, but also during business hours. Sometimes a response
is not received, and the visit cannot proceed. DASSAN explained that it has
raised these concerns with DIAC:
We have spoken extensively with the department and with Serco
about trying to address some of those issues. Some of them are logistical
issues, or that is what we are told. The impact on people in detention and the
impact on people in the community who are all really busy and try to organise
their time to offer support for people is really negative. Our position, which
is what we have said to DIAC and to Serco, is that they have to get it right.
It is not really a difficult thing to do. Our understanding is that in other
places in Australia it is much easier. Supporting people in detention is
something that is supported; it is something that we get constant feedback on,
including from DIAC and Serco, that it is very positive for people in
detention. One of the issues here in Darwin is that we would like to see that
process be more actively supported by the department and by Serco, and we would
like to see it happen more easily.
Ms Walker, from the Adelaide Hills Circle of Friends explained the
challenges encountered when visiting detainees in Port Augusta:
I will give an example of the difficulty in getting to visit
people at Port Augusta. Last year I became aware that there were Afghani young
people there. I have quite a good network throughout the country but I was
unable to find anyone who could help me find a name to put on my visit
application form. The Afghanis came and went. More recently, I managed to
befriend a friend of a friend and I went to visit Port Augusta last Saturday
for the first time. So it took me 18 months to gather one single name to put on
a visit form, gather that person's consent and go up and visit them.
Ms Lesley Walker said that the system an Inverbrackie worked well, as
long as the the prospective visitor had sufficient information about the
The system here works really well as long as you have the
name and house number of a person in Inverbrackie detention centre. It is a bit
clumsy, in that in other detention centres you can fax through your visitor
application form. But I am told there is no fax facility at Inverbrackie so one
must scan the form, sign it, scan it and email it. Apart from that, which is a
bit inconvenient for some people who do not have access to those processes, it
goes fairly smoothly and processing of the application happens within about 24
The Committee asked Ms Walker how she knew who to visit:
Usually it is through a friend of a friend—maybe someone who
has been in detention and knows someone who is still in detention—who is out on
community detention or a visa. They say, 'Lesley, I'd like to visit my friend,'
or 'Will you visit my friend?' And I say, 'Will you please check with your
friend that they want you or me to come.' There is phone contact, so that is
The Committee was told that the Serco Centre Manager, in conjunction
with the DIAC duty manager, has responsibility for approving applications from
Serco explained that 'it is not our policy to allow unapproved visits. If a
visit is approved at short notice, we do our best to facilitate it'.
The Committee believes that it is important that detainees have access
to visits from friends, family and legal advisors in the community, and notes
that this is one of the Immigration Detention Values.
The Committee received evidence across the country from people who
encountered difficulties attempting to visit detainees. More complaints were
received by people attempting to visit centres in remote areas. The Committee
notes that DIAC has detailed information on its website about the process to be
followed, including that a form must be filled out and 24 hours notice must be
given. However, evidence provided to the Committee suggests that Serco and
DIAC's implementation of this procedure is not consistent across the network.
The Committee also received complaints about the facilities available to
visitors in facilities across the network. For example, at Inverbrackie APOD
detainees and visitors have access to outdoor picnic tables. However the Committee
acknowledges that DIAC is working to improve this and had recently built a
visits area. The Committee also notes improved visitor facilities at Villawood
The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship require Serco local managers to apply a consistent practice and
procedure protocol to visits across the network, in accordance with the
information provided on the Department website.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Citizenship continue to improve visitor facilities across the network.
DIAC's administration of the contract
The DIAC regional management team at each IDC is responsible for
effective administration of the contract, and ensuring that Serco provides
services in a manner consistent with the terms of the contact and key DIAC
policies. Dr Hawke and Ms Williams explained that the team:
undertake day to day audits, including chairing and providing
secretariat support for monthly facility audit meetings.
manages the relationship with Serco on contract, security and
facilities management issues, including reviewing and managing resolution of a
daily issues log;
reports on issues, including undertaking performance management
activity, and responds to queries;
develop and maintain standard operating procedures and identify
training needs; and
assist with incident management and resolution, including
participating in the duty phone roster.
The Hawke-Williams Review found that DIAC staff needed to be better
trained in contract management, and more familiar with the provisions of the
As discussed earlier, the Department quite deliberately takes an
outcomes based approach to auditing Serco's compliance with the contract. The Secretary
of the Department explained:
This contract was conceived and written in response to the
Cornelia Rau case. It was very much focused on delivering outcomes rather than
being prescriptive. It was a quiet conscious policy decision taken by the
previous government in relation to setting up a contract where the service
provider would be held accountable for the results, rather than trying to tell
them how to do their job. The tender process commenced on that basis and, of
course, it is a matter of record that the number of people in immigration
detention when Serco took on the contract was far smaller than it has been in
DIAC informed the Committee that it had contracted Serco to provide a
service on its behalf, and that DIAC considers Serco to be the experts in
detention services and consequently does not attempt to intervene on matters of
One of the things that we have sought to do in our higher
level discussions with Serco is to allow them to do their job. This might be a
strange way of putting it but, through the contract, we have bought their
expertise. We have sought to allow them to use their expertise to do their job
well. We hold them accountable for the outcomes—please do not misunderstand me;
I am not trying to say this is a hands-off, laissez-faire approach; we do hold
them accountable for the outcomes—but we do not try to tell them how to do
DIAC advised that it has never made a payment to Serco, based on the
incentive payment scheme, since the contract was signed. Rather, it has imposed
abatements every month since the abatement period commenced in March 2010.
The Secretary, Mr Andrew Metcalfe, acknowledged that there were areas where the
contract could be improved, however DIAC worked within the existing contract:
I will be surprised if this committee does not provide us
with recommendations as to changes to the contract. Indeed, there may be a
philosophical issue some members pursue as to whether the services should be
provided in an outsourced manner or within government. That is an issue for
politicians to deal with. But we have a contract, we are committed to making it
work and we constantly are seeking to refine and change the procedures to
improve outcomes. I think we can claim some success in that respect.
The abatement indicator matrix includes items such as catering,
programs, activities, transport, security, maintenance. Self harm and
disruptive behaviour have not been included, as these are matters that are
considered outside Serco's control.
DIAC and Serco are required to conduct an audit each month against the
abatement indicator metrics. This has been conducted each month since March
2010 for each IDC. The total abatements during March 2010–June 2011 is $14.8
million. The IRH/ITA Contract provides that a similar audit must be conducted
quarterly. Four reviews were conducted over May 2010 to April 2011, and the
total abatements during that period was $215,000.
The Auditor-General is conducting an audit of DIAC's management of
Serco's delivery of services to detainees, which will be tabled in 2012.
The Committee notes that Serco has been required to respond to serious
logistical challenges presented by the surge in detainees. This surge, the Committee
notes, was not anticipated at the time that the detention services contracts
The Committee also recognises that the overwhelming majority of Serco
officers come to work each day with the intention of providing adequate
services to people in detention, and that generally Serco has developed
policies and procedures to assist Serco officers to perform their duties.
However, the Committee cannot ignore the fact that Serco is being paid a
very large sum of money to provide these services to the Commonwealth, and that
payments are based on a contracted level of service. It is therefore disappointing
and disturbing to learn of numerous shortcomings in service delivery. Staffing
levels are inadequate, and place detainees and staff at serious risk. The
program of activities in detention, one of the few things a detainee can do to
keep themselves occupied, is still at a pilot stage and not fully implemented. Implementation
of visitor protocols is haphazard, and can lead to confusion and frustration, a
scenario the network cannot afford to encourage.
At least as alarming as these examples is the fact that a significant
proportion of officers on duty in centres are not adequately trained to perform
the roles expected of them, in spite of the clear widespread existence of
complex mental health issues, and high rates of self harm.
The Committee's overall view is that Serco has not performed to the
standard expected. While each detainee is housed, fed and clothed, the contract
requires a higher standard than this and, even given all the complex and
difficult circumstances of the detention environment, the Committee simply received
too many examples of Serco failing to make the grade. The Committee hopes that
implementation of the recommendations in this chapter will go some way to
addressing these shortcomings.
The Committee is pleased that the recommendations from the Hawke-Williams
Review has prompted further reforms of Serco's service delivery and has also
highlighted the need for DIAC staff to be equipped to actively manage delivery
of the contract.
In the next chapter the Committee examines the delivery of health
services to people in immigration detention.
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