G4S makes £14.3m from scandal-hit immigration centre amid lack of Home Office scrutiny, report finds

May Bulman

Private security firm G4S has raked in more than £14m from running scandal-hit removal centre Brook House over six years despite serious failings, new figures show.

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found the company had gross profit rates of up to 20 per cent a year from running the immigration detention facility between 2012 and 2018, making a total of £14.3m over the period.

The revelation comes two years after BBC’s Panorama programme exposed abuse at the removal centre (IRC) in 2017, with undercover footage showing alleged assaults, humiliation and verbal abuse of detainees by officers.

The NAO investigation, conducted for the Home Affairs Select Committee, also found the Home Office failed to properly examine or challenge G4S on its management of the centre.

The watchdog said the department did not have the people in place to properly verify or validate the company’s reported level of performance, with the on-site monitoring of G4S’s contractual compliance part of just one junior civil servant’s role.

MPs said it was extremely troubling for G4S to be making up to 20 per cent gross profits on the Brook House contract at the same time as awful abuse by staff against detainees was taking place.

Following the Panorama programme, G4S’s profits fell because it started to spend more on delivering the contract, with its annual gross profit falling from between 18 and 20 per cent each year until 2016 to 10 per cent in 2017 and 14 per cent in 2018.

The Home Affairs Select Committee said this raised very serious questions about the firm’s running of the centre to make higher profits while not having proper staffing, training, and safeguarding in place.

Off the back of the abuse revelations, the Home Office fined G4S £2,768 – less than 0.5 per cent of the monthly fee – for eight incidents, four of which should have been previously reported, according to the report.

The NAO said it was worrying that the normal contract monitoring and incident reports did not communicate the gravity of what was shown by the documentary, and that the inability of the Home Office to impose significant financial consequences on G4S highlighted limitations in the contractual approach.

“It is vitally important that the Home Office continues its new approach of managing its provider to both the letter and spirit of its contracts,” the report said.

Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said: “For G4S to be making up to 20 per cent gross profits on the Brook House contract at the same time as such awful abuse by staff against detainees was taking place is extremely troubling.

“The NAO’s findings call into serious question the Home Office’s management of this sensitive contract and raise real problems about the contract itself. They are right to say how worrying it is that Home Office monitoring did not reveal the gravity of the incidents taking place at Brook House.

“Our report on immigration detention has already identified a shockingly cavalier approach by the Home Office to immigration detention and a lack of proper oversight to ensure effective, safe and humane management of IRCs.”

Ms Cooper said that in light of the report, the committee would further question both G4S and the Home Office.

The Home Office now considers the contract, which was extended for two years in August 2018, after the Panorama programme had been broadcast, to be not fit for purpose and is procuring a new contract to manage the centre from 2020 to 2028.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The events at Brook House highlighted by Panorama were shocking, and from the very beginning we have been absolutely committed to understanding all aspects of what happened and embedding learning across all centres.

“We are making significant changes to the contracting model and have developed new ways to further ensure that the safety and dignity of those detained are at the heart of what we expect from the provider, including having more staff dedicated to monitoring the performance of our service provider.

“The Home Office and G4S have been working together and we remain committed to improving leadership, management and training at Brook House.”

John Whitwam, managing director of G4S custodial and detention services, said: “Building on the significant progress already made at Brook House IRC, we continue to work closely with the Home Office to improve further the services we provide. We would like to thank the NAO for compiling this report.”