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Corrections beefs up Serco oversight

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/10/2016

Corrections says it's stepped up its oversight of private contractors in the wake of a highly critical report into Serco's running of Mt Eden prison.

The report into the prison's management found there were serious issues with staffing and supervision that allowed near weekly "fight clubs" to take place.

It made 21 recommendations, including the review of the role and responsibilities of Corrections monitoring staff and the relationship manager at the jail.

The investigation, by its chief inspector, found the monitors had an "often very difficult" relationship with Serco and may have been "overwhelmed, worn down and consumed by Mt Eden management continually challenging their requests for resolution to matters".

Since Corrections took back the operation of the Mt Eden jail, it has added extra monitors at the Wiri prison, which is still run by Serco, and set up a major outsourced contract advisory board chaired by former New Zealand Transport Agency chief executive Geoff Dangerfield.

Corrections chief executive Ray Smith has also appointed a new deputy chief executive of commercial services, who's responsible for outsourced services and who monitors ultimately report to.

"I have strengthened our monitoring of the private provision of custodial services as recommended and gone further," Mr Smith said.

Serco took over the management of Mt Eden in 2011 after winning a $300 million, 10-year contract.

The discovery of fighting footage uploaded to YouTube in July last year triggered an investigation into organised fighting and access to contraband in the prison, and came at a time when Serco's contract was up for review.

It led ultimately to Corrections taking back management of the prison.

The private prison operator paid $8 million to the government after it decided to step in and didn't receive performance bonuses of $3.1 million in the 2016 financial year.

It's now entered into a labour supply arrangement, after which Corrections will fully staff the prison by March next year.

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