When a private company signs a contract to provide a service to New Zealand and New Zealanders, one can expect the company to impose its own style. However as much they might claim to be way of the future, companies like Serco never had serious regard for things that reduce or eliminate violence in places under their ownership or jurisdiction. The recent claims of fight clubs, prisoners being injured in initiation rituals and Serco, who were responsible for managing privately run prisons in New Zealand, hiding the truth have proven two things:
- Serco are not fit to hold a service contract with New Zealand Goverment agency. Those that exist should be reviewed.
- Before any new contracts are let to the private sector for services that normally the function of the Crown there needs to be an audit of existing contracts.
Serco have a questionable record not just in New Zealand but overseas as well.
In Britain scandals regarding Serco staff at institutions that Serco had the contract for managing, have occurred in the last two years. In the British scandal instances of abuse at Yarl Wood centre for women who are waiting to be deported back to their countries of origin were reported. Also in the United Kingdom instances of fraud totalling several tens of millions of £ were found in an electronic tagging contract. Despite this, the Government of Britain appears to have forgiven Serco.
But back to New Zealand. Given Serco’s irresponsible record here thus far, it is reasonable to think that they should not be permitted to hold another contract for managing a Government service in New Zealand. It is appropriate that there should be a screening process that is done by an independent auditor who checks out the history of private sector applicants for contracts and makes sure that they meet a check list of requirements. But simply ticking boxes should not be the only check. Demonstrable competency with a particular contract type should be mandatory.
But I would not trust them with a security contract again. And because Serco is a security firm, I guess that means no more Serco in New Zealand. And anyway, putting a nation first as its Government is supposed to do, could not a New Zealand firm – if we really must even have private companies involved in running our prisons at all – do the job?