Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Serco: profiting from failure, lack of accountability and a disregard for human life

Here are the results of privatization and Serco running public services. A complete lack of accountability for public funds, extreme profit gouging from the public purse, an obsession with secrecy, unauthorized use of force, poorly trained and under prepared staff and a disregard for human life that leads to self  harm, suicide and death of those in Serco's care.

Each day there are more exposures of Serco's shocking record in running Australia's immigration detention centres.

Detainees in Villawood  were forced to use a cigarette lighter to try to burn through a rope used by a detainee to take his own life. Serco staff were ill prepared and untrained to respond to attempted suicide. according to ABC Online which reports:
Detainees say they tried to burn through the rope 41-year-old Ahmed Al Akabi had used to take his own life.
They say they have borne witness to a string of suicides at the centre in the past year, including that of Iraqi-born teacher Mr Akabi.
The detainees, mostly of Kurdish origin, relayed numerous concerns over their indefinite detention, with several afflicted by illnesses related to stress and depression.
Tensions at the centre came to a head last month when riot police were called in during a night of rioting that saw several buildings destroyed by fire.
One of the men who found Mr Akabi says guards employed by Villawood's privately owned operator, Serco, were ill-equipped and not adequately trained to respond appropriately to the suicide attempt.
The man says the guards did not have a sharp instrument available to cut Mr Akabi down and did not know how to respond.
The detainee, who did not want to be identified, says he and others tried to hold Mr Akabi aloft in a bid to save him from suffocation until help arrived.
He says they were forced to use the cigarette lighter to try to save the father of three, but were too late; he was pronounced dead a short time later.
Serco declined to comment on specific allegations, but in a statement to the ABC said it runs a comprehensive staff training program that goes beyond its contractual obligations.
"Serco is committed to doing everything we can to prevent those in our care from coming to harm," the statement said.
"Our staff take this commitment extremely seriously and work hard to keep those in our care safe and secure."
The amount of public funds paid to Serco was secretly doubled by the Federal Government and is expected to reach $1 billion within months. This is despite the Federal Government claiming that Serco was only paid $370 million. This windfall has massively boosted Serco's Australian revenue by 30%:
Serco originally signed a five-year contract worth $370 million to run the facilities, including the Maribyrnong Detention Centre, until mid-2014.

But immigration industry experts said this figure was now likely to burst through the billion-dollar barrier.
Figures obtained from government tender records show the total size of Serco's contracts in relation to asylum-seekers was quietly doubled in November to more than $756 million.
But immigration industry sources are saying the latest contract amount for Serco is already six months out of date, and it stands to make hundreds of millions more from the taxpayers with continued boat arrivals.
One source said the asylum-seeker boom since November had already added up to $200 million to the total value of Serco's detention contracts. That would value them at up to $950 million as of this month.
Industry experts said Serco's bonanza was set to easily crack the $1 billion barrier if the Government's new "Malaysia Solution" does not work and refugee boats keep coming.
An Immigration Department spokesman refused to speculate on the Serco bonanza. A Serco spokeswoman said these were "questions for the Government".
 Serco is so fearful of exposure of its activities that it considers the unauthorized presence of media near a detention centre to be a critical safety threat- the highest possible threat level. This report found that:
The company running the country's immigration detention centres has upgraded how seriously it takes the unauthorised presence of media, putting it on par with a bomb threat or an escape.
The Serco document says "unauthorised" media presence at a detention centre is now considered "critical" - the highest possible threat level.
Accounts of events from within Christmas Island detention centres show that Serco's use of force, its under-staffing and ill preparedness and poor management were major contributors to recent riots and protests on Christmas Island. A full account of the claims can be read here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done Colin on raising the amount of money Australian Taxpayers are giving to the private company with little accountability. That the WA Govt also wants to enter into such an arrangement for the Fiona Stanley Hospital is outrageous. Keep on spreading the message.