Monday, October 1, 2012

Gerry Georgatos on Serco's ongoing contract failures

I have posted before (here) about Gerry Georgatos's pioneering approach to investigative journalism. As the WA reporter for the National Indigenous Times Gerry combines investigative reporting with PhD studies and human rights and social justice campaigning.

Gerry is the only journalist in WA and one of the few in this country willing to investigate the appalling record of the UK multinational Serco, who runs more and more of the nation and WA's public services.

Serco has highly profitable contracts with the Gillard Government to run Australia's controversial immigration detention centres and also runs many of Australia's defence and military bases, including overseas military bases.

Since the Barnett Government came to power Serco's power and influence in Western Australia has grown, thanks largely to their profound and deep conections within the Liberal Party and the Government bureaucracy.

Serco won a contract to run WA's largest hospital Fiona Stanley Hospital despite having no experience running hospitals in Australia. From November it will run WA's only juvenile prison. It already runs Acacia Prison. Serco took over the highly controversial prisoner transport contract from G4S.

Gerry's latest report which will appear in the National Indigenous Times this week describes Serco's continual and constant contractual failure in the prisoner transport contract.

Whistleblowers to National Indigenous Times correct, SERCO wrong says government arbiter
Gerry Georgatos
The multinational SERCO has been hit with a fine of nearly $600,000 and has been told to get its act together. Department of Corrective Services and SERCO whistleblowers to the National Indigenous Times had said that SERCO had been failing to meet its prisoner transport contract duties - and had failed to turn up to pick up prisoners for court appearances, had failed to provide staff for prisoners attending public hospitals and had taken prisoners to the wrong prisons.
SERCO is one of the world's wealthiest organizations and holds not only prison management and prisoner transport contracts, however lucrative immigration detention contracts, and is entrenched in the service delivery of public transport, human resource management and public welfare components and the public health systems.
The Contract for the Provision of Court Security and Custodial Services annual report noted that a performance improvement notice was issued and the reason for this was "persistent poor performance."
In May, a customer satisfication survey was conducted by a government arbiter and found a satisfaction rate of only 52.6 per cent. The annual survey referenced 32,000 prisoner transfers and movements 6,600 court sitting days.
Social researcher  and SERCOWATCH spokesperson, Colin Penter said that the fine and the one in two failures exposed by the survey and by whistleblowers evidences "a consistent failure of SERCO failing to meet targets" and that the underperformance impacts on the prisoners.
SERCO took over the prison transport and court services contracts from G4S, the company in whose care Aboriginal Elder Mr Ward died from horrific burns and dehydration in the back of a prison van on a 43 degree day during a 360km desert drive.
"SERCO has improved nothing, they are just as bad as G4S which killed Mr Ward," said UWA law student and former Deaths in Custody Watch Committee chairperson, Marianne Mackay.
"They are unfit to hold any tenders and contracts to do with the criminal justice system. Our people suffer in their hands."
"Nyoongar man Grantley Winmar died in SERCO run Acacia Prison after being neglected for days - he died of haemorrhaging."
The Australian Institute of Criminology in its 2008/2009 report noted that prison deaths in private company managed prisons died at three times the rate than those dying in government run prisons - 4.5 deaths per 1,000 prisoners in private prisons compared to 1.3 deaths per 1,000 prisoners in government run prisons.
Mr Penter said SERCO cannot be trusted with the profit motive appearing to be foremost. "In the UK SERCO was found to have lied 252 times, and the failures of the SERCO run prison in Christchurch are there for all to see - it comes down to gross neglect."
"To put everything in context SERCO's neglect leads to deaths." In the UK SERCO was slammed for the death of a 14 year old boy in their custody  
"What is disturbing for me is that the whistleblowers who were in a way the 'family', the support, of the prisoners are now gone from inside. They were right all along despite SERCO and the Department of Corrective Services saying otherwise."
In recent months there has been an outcry against the Department of Corrective Services push to use video-link and Skype technology for court appearances and in that prisoners were refused transport to funerals.
The annual report revealed that this is already in place and has reduced the attendance of prisoners to and from courts by nearly 30 per cent in the past year due the increased use of video-link technology.
"A son and daughter, despite being an inmate, should be allowed the dignity of attendance at a parent's funeral, it is both a customary right and the humane thing. Using money as an excuse to stop our people attending funerals well the line must be drawn and this not allowed," said Ms Mackay.
"Our people should also have court attendance in person, so they know what's going on and can speak for themselves and not be removed from their full set of rights and comprehension by being stuck in a prison room and in front of a camera where they can input very little - this should be illegal."
A DCS spokesperson said, "It is too early to assume any service delivery trends or issues from a single survey. DCS Commissioner Ian Johnson was reported saying that the DCS is constantly developing "practices that reduced the need for unnecessary prisoner transport" and that in fact he said "70 per cent of all appearances were now by video link."

No comments: