Serco – the company that fails at providing public services

Written By: - Date published: 11:55 am, August 30th, 2015 - 34 comments
Categories: Kelvin Davis, national - Tags: , , , , , , ,

They were, until a few months ago, the biggest company you’d never heard of. Well, that’s not entirely true. In New Zealand Serco are not a big company. They have two public sector contracts, just two. Unfortunately, you already know about those two contracts. Because they’re in New Zealand’s prisons.

It would be nice to say that this was a unique set of circumstances, that the fact that Mt Eden Corrections Facility is a remand prison meant that there were always going to be problems. I say that because that is exactly what the Minister for Corrections said when he was challenged on the rates of violence at Mt Eden on TV3’s The Nation. That was in May, before the Fight Club allegations had surfaced.

It would also be nice to dismiss Serco overcharging the UK Government by NZD $164,776,181 for tagging ex-offenders who had either returned to prison, left the country or were dead. As well as their chronic mismanagement of Fiona Stanley Hospital in Australia. Not to mention forgetting that Serco only managed to make a profit in 2014 from the lucrative nature of their contracts with the Australian Government and their deeply awful refugee policy. Actually, no, it wouldn’t.

The Department of Corrections is currently investigating the fight clubs, arrests of prisoners for managing a meth ring, the guards offering ‘sparring tips’, and much more. What was supposed to take a month is now going to take four, with Phase 1 reporting October 30th and Phase 2 on November 30th. If you’re seeking the way to minimise the impact of what is clearly a catastrophic systemic failure, punting that far down the line and breaking up the report is definitely one way of doing it.

But basically, it’s just not thorough enough. Prison officers don’t have faith in Corrections to conduct their investigation with integrity. Ex-inmates fear speaking out, in case of retribution if they end up back inside. And while Serco have mismanaged Mt Eden, surely some questions need to be put to Corrections and the Minister for Corrections about exactly why they needed leaked videos on YouTube to let them know one of their prisons was failing’

And boy have they failed. They failed in the UK, they failed in Australia and they’ve failed here. But the investigation isn’t focusing on the systemic problems caused by a company who slash staff numbers to make a profit. It’s not recognising the tragic history of Serco involvement in overseas public services. The problem isn’t fight clubs, it’s not prisoners. It’s Serco.

What’s needed is an independent inquiry. Labour’s Kelvin Davis has called for one as this whole mess unfolded. David Clendon of NZ Greens has also called for their contract to be cancelled. The idea of an independent investigation is supported by the Howard League For Penal Reform, the Corrections Association of New Zealand and the PSA. Because unlike many, many other countries New Zealand lacks a truly independent inspectorate of prisons. Say No To Serco Aotearoa is joining the politicians and the unions in calling for an independent inquiry.

Despite all the failures, Serco will continue to make money from Mt Eden. Because their contract ensures they will. The fines that Sam Lotu-Iiga has talked about aren’t fines, they’re just not paying them their performance bonuses. Bonuses which make up 10% of the contract. The other 90% is, contractually, untouchable.

There’s obviously more to do here. In New Zealand Serco are not a big company. Sure, they have a $300,000,000 contract for Mt Eden. Yes, they’re expecting $30,000,000 a year in profit from South Auckland Wiri prison. But that’s just two contracts. With social impact bonds and social housing up for privatisation in the future, you can bet Serco will express an interest.

Why? Because that’s what they do. Serco don’t stop just because they’ve been a catastrophic failure in one part of the public sector. They’re dedicated, it seems, to making a profit while failing to deliver lots of different public services. Right now, we’re in a good position to ensure that Serco don’t make a first class profit, while New Zealand gets second class services.

So, while we’re asking for an independent inquiry into the Mt Eden fiasco, we’re also demanding a moratorium on Serco being considered for any further public sector contracts. It makes sense. Why would you give them a second chance in New Zealand, when the number of chances and failures globally far exceed that number.

With help from the wonderful ActionStation, we’ve started a petition calling for an independent inquiry and a moratorium on Serco bids for New Zealand’s public services. You can sign up, here. Our campaign is in its early stages, and your support is vital You can find us on Facebook here, or track the hashtag #NoToSerco on twitter.

Thanks,
John Palethorpe
No To Serco Aotearoa

34 comments on “Serco – the company that fails at providing public services”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    What was supposed to take a month is now going to take four, with Phase 1 reporting October 30th and Phase 2 on November 30th. If you’re seeking the way to minimise the impact of what is clearly a catastrophic systemic failure, punting that far down the line and breaking up the report is definitely one way of doing it.

    With phase three, the actual release to the public, being on December 30th?

    The problem isn’t fight clubs, it’s not prisoners. It’s Serco.

    And the absolute bollocks idea that the private sector can always do it better.

  2. RedBaronCV 2

    I spend my time wondering just what Serco would have to do to get sacked.

    Any employee who did or facilitated a fraction of the behaviour that Serco has enabled would be down the road in seconds. So why is it so hard just to simply sack this mob.
    Am I also the only one that gets the feeling that Corrections (and a lot of others) had a pretty good idea of what was going on in Mt Eden ( look how quickly the takeover team was organised) but were tied until the publicity grew beyond what their political masters could brush aside .

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Any employee who did or facilitated a fraction of the behaviour that Serco has enabled would be down the road in seconds.

      And on their way to jail. So, why aren’t we jailing these fuckers?

  3. sack shane reti 3

    The report comes out on the day before the rugby world cup final. Cynical much? Also, off topic here, but is it normal to announce the All Blacks from the fucking Beehive? Fuck the All Blacks, keep sport out of politics!

    • whateva next? 3.1

      “The report comes out on the day before the rugby world cup final.”
      standard tactics and could say that Serco were bringing back executions to cut costs, and no-one would bat an eyelid if the All Blacks are still in at that point.
      NZ is known for it’s sheep, sadly it’s probably deserved

  4. Bill 4

    On one level I’ve never understood any of this. It doesn’t matter whether we’re looking at prisons or aspects of health care or other social provisions, the picture’s the same.

    Take a state run service, that because it isn’t being run for profit, means that 100% of monies from the public purse provide the service. Hammer on about inefficiencies and whatever clap trap. Sell the service to an entity, that will of necessity, ‘raid’ the institutional knowledge of those who (allegedly) ran the state entity into the ground or whatever. Celebrate claimed upticks in efficiency and ‘value for money’ as the new entity splits monies from the public purse into operational streams and profit streams. Sit back and wonder why shit degenerates.

    I can’t get my head around why any population anywhere ever bought into or allowed such obvious ideological and wrong-headed shit to get any traction.

    One claim in the post that I’d disagree with. Serco haven’t failed anywhere. They have made money everywhere they’ve operated. So by their own terms and by the terms of the fuck-knuckle politicians who cram this shit down our gullets, they’re a success.

    • dukeofurl 4.1

      Prisons get to dish out ‘management punishments’ for small scale offences while inside.
      The idea that business is doing something that should be reserved for the state- without any of the checks and balances is another of the features that make this a no go .

  5. Treetop 5

    Serco got handed a brand new prison to run, this would have increased the profits.

    What next, robots to guard the inmates or mannequins dressed up as correction officers?

    Serco’s CEO was here to also talk about an interest in running rail and social housing. How audacious.

    • Once was Tim 5.1

      “Serco got handed a brand new prison to run……..”
      And that’s EXACTLY why they (and the politicians) have been able to make the false claim that this prison is being run better (i.e. from one of the worst – to one of the ‘better’ ones). They’re not comparing apples with apples but I guess we shouldn;t let those little details get in the way of a Natzi tall story.
      …. oops I wasn’t going to comment here, but since I’ve typed a few lines, what’s a return button between frenz?

      • Treetop 5.1.1

        The Shit is going to hit the fan and who ever is next to the fan is going to wear it.

  6. Bill 7

    Labour MPs calling for an inquiry…is that some kind of implicit acceptance that this privatised shit is the ‘the way things are now because that’s how things have been and so as things always will be’?

    Seriously, why are they bothering with all this ‘let’s have an inquiry’ civil politeness?

    Why aren’t they out there calling dog-shit on the whole ideological basis of this rabid nonsense?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1

      +1

      Labour could probably prevent each and every asset sale by simply stating that all our property will be returned without compensation, by lunchtime. No matter how much you pay the National Party, you will lose the lot.

  7. Keith 8

    Based on all other Key government enquiries the purpose of this collection of inquiries will be:

    1 To hide the blindingly obvious wrong that is privatised prisons.
    2. To take the most if not all the heat off National.
    3. To formulate a strategy to allow SERCO to carry on as per normal after the dust settles.
    4. To be done in such a way as to bury the information from the public (hence the broken up nature of this white wash).
    5. Possibly the most important, to NEVER get to the truth!

    And to save the taxpayers a lot of money here’s the likely outcome:

    1. Throw a few “rogue” SERCO employees under the bus and blame them.
    2. Claim it was an isolated case of “coincidences” and definitely not systemic.
    3. Release relevant hand picked bits of information on a Friday sometime around a rugby test or flag referendum or just before Christmas. Redact everything else and if by some slim chance inappropriate questions are asked, LIE!
    4. Fine SERCO for having rogue workers and make a big song and dance about it with sundry final warnings and other hollow gestures.
    5. Ensure cell phones never ever get into Mt Eden again, not because it is bad for the public but because it was so bad for National and SERCO.

    But what really worries me with a government like ours, who launders donations through restaurants, who does shady deals with SkyCity for convention centres that make share prices fluctuate at a whim, who pays off Saudi millionaires millions with taxpayer money for reasons we may never know, is how much money is changing hands as we speak to make this all go away to the shareholders satisfaction?

    • sabine 8.1

      …… is how much money is changing hands as we speak to make this all go away to the shareholders satisfaction?

      as much money as is needed.

  8. Rail user 9

    I’m surprised the media hasn’t picked up on the disturbing fact Serco is on Auckland Transport’s shortlist to run Auckland’s electric trains and rail service next year.
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1504/S00727/short-list-for-aucklands-passenger-rail-contract.htm

    • maui 9.1

      Come on, don’t you want prisoners riding ontop of moving carriages in gladiatorial fights with the ever present threat of electrocution or dropping onto the ground below. This is the 21st model on how we cut down on reoffending….

  9. sack shane reti 10

    FFS & this http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/71343144/international-embarrassment-as-foreign-inmate-bashed-in-troubled-prison “The family of an injured Mt Eden prisoner called in diplomats for help, after Serco wrongly reported the attack as an ‘accident’.”

  10. Rodel 11

    Listening on radio to Soames (Churchill’s grandson) who is the boss of Serco is sickening. Saying how Mt Ede is now a good prison. Almost expected him to come out with..”we shall fight them on the..cellblocks..we shqll nevah surrendah..blah blah.” British aristocrat rubbish…humbug!

  11. gsays 12

    good post however i am with bill on this,

    it isnt that serco are bad, the second or third pick company would have behaved in a similar way.

    its the vulgar notion that there is a profit found in keeping people in detention.

    as to the call for an inquiry, bill says it well:
    “Why aren’t they out there calling dog-shit on the whole ideological basis of this rabid nonsense?”

    this is a stake in the ground issue. demonstrate you are not national lite.

    • miravox 12.1

      “demonstrate you are not national lite”

      Echoing this piece by Andy Beckett

      …Yet unnoticed by such political obituarists, Britons far outside the usual Tory circles were becoming Thatcherites or Thatcher beneficiaries, consciously or not. The Maggie-mockers of Spitting Image Productions, many of them lefties, used the enterprise zone the Thatcher government had created in London’s Docklands, with its deliberately relaxed health and safety laws, to make their latex puppets out of dangerous chemicals. The Sheffield musician and declared Tony Benn supporter Martyn Ware of Heaven 17 told the New Musical Express in 1982 that “the best and least hypocritical” way to behave as a band was “to act as a business”.

      Once the Conservatives’ huge election victories in 1983 and 1987 had made the pervasiveness of Thatcherite ideas unmistakable, the other parties adjusted accordingly. Labour under Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair, the SDP under David Owen, the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg – for a quarter of a century until the financial crisis of 2008, British politics was full of left-of-centre figures accepting weaker trade unions, broader property ownership and a stronger free market…

      I agree, it’s the acceptance of the ideology of privatisation of public services that is stake in the ground issue. Serco is the (very expensive, incompetent) mask.

    • Rodel 12.2

      “It isn’t that Serco are bad” They are! ….and I also agree with you about the vulgar notion. Any company that runs on that premise is by definition bad.

      Private companies and especially foreign owned ones have no place in the incarceration of citizens no matter how bad they are.

    • JanM 12.3

      It is vulgar but no worse than making a profit from the education of young children or the care of the elderly. All very wrong

      • Rodel 12.3.1

        Jan M
        respectfully disagree with you especially care of the elderly.Incarceration is the key issue for me. Only an elected body should have that function.. The elderly can escape- my dad did.

  12. infused 13

    The funny thing is this all happens in rimutaka if not worse.

    • sack shane reti 13.1

      Thats funny? weird sense of humour you got there mate.

    • North 13.2

      “The funny thing is this all happens in rimutaka if not worse”.

      Oh really Infused ? Link please. I expect you’ve not had the personal experience as have I of seeing a 19 year old turn up at court after two weeks in Serco Mt Eden his previously unblemished face gang-tattooed. Physical resistance to that ‘branding’ rendered too dangerous by the clear and present prospect (?) of grievous bodily harm at the hands of many, had he offered it.

      Infused you really are a mouthy, know-nothing, “I don’t give a fuck !” troll. Inhumanly energised by the financial interests of upper middle-class Serco shareholders from Manchester to Kent, “…..if not worse”. A pox on you and your inhumanity !

  13. Mike the Savage One 14

    While I never had that much of a positive impression of Kelvin Davis, he did though seem to be doing quite well with raising the Serco Mt Eden Prison issues in the media.

    But whether this is just another Paddy Gower sabotage effort, or not, it raises questions about his true position on privatisation and the benefits of it.

    Going to a meeting that appears to have been held to promote Charter Schools, while Labour does generally oppose them, that is not a good look, I fear.

    http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/kelvin-davis-defies-labour-policy-in-charter-school-support-2015083017#axzz3kIfduu4d

    Are we seeing another repeat of the conduct of some in caucus like it happened when David Cunliffe was leader, or is this something that can be explained with good reasons? I will look forward to some explanations by the Te Tai Tokerau MP in the coming days.

    • North 14.1

      Understandable that Kelvin Davis advances the rationalisation that “whanau kaupapa” demanded his attendance at this glittering knees-up for Key-proxies Seymour/ACT.

      Not understandable that uncaringly he walks right into the hands of Key/Seymour/ACT, especially since non-attendance would not have impacted one iota on his embrace of whanau kaupapa.

      Not understandable on an even greater scale when one considers that in the last election Davis had not a shred of concern for whanau kaupapa when with alacrity he disrespected/mocked/abused whanaunga Hone Harawira……with the result that the wickedly depressed Far North now has ONE Maori parliamentary representative when it might have had TWO.

      Anyone else suspect that Davis has ‘asprayshuns’ centred on a ‘whanau-of-one’ ?

  14. Stuart Munro 15

    SERCO is the model for National governance from here on out – pitifully incompetent and seething with corruption. Labour’s election promises should include a regimen of punishments for this kind of corruption:

    [deleted]

    The Mongol Khans had many humorous ways of eliminating entrenched corruption and were considered remarkably enlightened in their day. It would be tragic if the incoming left government were any less inventive.

    [lprent: I have that kind of system too. Banned for 2 weeks for advocating violence. Don’t do it again or next time I will start at 2 months. ]

    • Draco T Bastard 15.1

      Sam Lotu Liga should be raped in the shower by Mr Big who’s in with the warders (a la the Young Ones).

      There’s no need for that.

  15. save NZ 16

    +1
    Signed.

  16. JanM 17

    A friend just sent me this on Facebook – cool 🙂

    Raybon Kan
    16 hrs · Twitter ·
    “I’m fine with Serco running everything, as long as we get Novopay to pay them.”

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