An immigration centre where there was alleged “awful abuse by staff against detainees” has made £14.3 million in profit for the company that runs it.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee, accused the Home Office of a “shockingly cavalier approach” to sensitive contracts after a National Audit Office investigation found security company G4S has made £14.3 million in profit from Brook House immigration removal centre between 2012 and 2018.
The revelation comes after a Panorama programme documented alleged abuses against detainees at the centre near Gatwick Airport.
Incidents identified from the Panorama footage were not classified as a contractual breach and did not lead to any significant penalties, and the Home Office and G4S say they have been working together to improve leadership, management and training.
However, at least six members of staff were dismissed by G4S following the broadcast.
The NAO report found G4S has been making “significant profits” on the Brook House contract.
They found that, between 2012 and 2018, G4S made £14.3 million gross profits, (before deducting a share of company overheads, such as human resources), with gross profit rates of between 10% and 20% each year.
Following the Panorama programme, G4S’s profits fell because it started to spend more on delivering the contract while the Home Office has also increased the size and role of its contract monitoring team.
Cooper said the findings raise “serious questions” about the Home Office’s handling of sensitive contracts and claimed their monitoring should have picked up problems sooner.
She said: “For G4S to be making up to 20% 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.
“Given that profits reduced when G4S had to increase staffing and training after the Panorama programme, this raises very serious questions about G4S’s running of the centre to make higher profits whilst not having proper staffing, training and safeguarding systems in place.”
She added: “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.”
Cooper said the committee will be pursuing further questions with G4S and the Home Office.
A Home Office spokesman 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.”
Despite the problems, the NAO found that G4S “broadly delivered” on the terms of the contract.
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 National Audit Office for compiling this report.”
Following the Panorama programme and the subsequent action plan, the Home Office decided to cancel the Brook House procurement and start it again. To facilitate this, it agreed an extension on the current Brook House contract to May 2020.
According to the NAO, the Home Office has now concluded that the Brook House contract as written is no longer fit for purpose, given the lack of scope to impose financial penalties and enforce improvements in conditions and treatment.
Any new contract is expected to include new performance measures covering staff recruitment, induction, training, mentoring and culture, and establish a contractual role for the Home Office to monitor the appropriateness of the use of force against detainees and the care of staff and detainees following an incident.