Serco’s performance

July 6th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Private prison operator Serco has failed to meet half of its performance targets since taking over Auckland’s Mt Eden Prison.

A report card on Serco’s performance released today reveals three inmates were wrongly released, one escaped and there were three wrongful detentions.

The percentage of sentenced prisoners with an appropriate plan in place within required timeframes was only 28 per cent – two thirds lower than the 90 per cent target.

Of 37 targets Serco was to meet in the nine months to April half weren’t met.

While it is not good that Serco is only meeting half its targets, what is great is that a prison operator actually has targets that they are being held to. When is the last time you heard about the public prison service being subjected to the accountability of such targets.

And if Serco continue not to meet the targets, then they will be financially penalised and eventually can be sacked. This is how it should be.

The full set of performance targets and results is here.

Some of the “failures” are pretty minor such as only 99% instead of 100% of prisoners were seen by a health professional within four hours of arrving.

The KPIs look pretty good. Does anyone know if the prisons run by the Corrections Department have to meet the same KPIs?

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47 Responses to “Serco’s performance”

  1. tvb (4,199 comments) says:

    I would like to see how the corrections department measures up. I bet they will try every bureaucratic trick in the boopk to avoid the comparison.

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  2. hj (6,347 comments) says:

    I thought it was a bit rude that they got fined because a prisoner escaped!

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  3. BeaB (2,057 comments) says:

    Pointless stats unless we know the public prison ones for comparison.
    Time for some league tables.

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  4. Mark (1,360 comments) says:

    I think the comparison would be appropriate. Otn the face of it Serco is not doing very well at all despite DPF’s assertions. If they had failed on one or two targets sure but over half is pretty average.

    How long will the government give them to get their shit together or will poor performance be tolerated year after year.

    The question is tho if the pubic service prisons are demonstrably better run than Serco can do will Serco be replaced by the correction department?

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  5. Manolo (13,339 comments) says:

    Give us a fair comparison by assessing Serco against state-run prisons.

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  6. davidp (3,540 comments) says:

    So prison management performance is public knowledge, but school management performance is secret?

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  7. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    Annual Reports for the Department of Corrections provide a range of performance measures, but from memory these are system wide, rather than broken down to the individual prison level. The data would definitely be available though.

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  8. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    davidp
    Funny, have you not heard of ERO?

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  9. david (2,535 comments) says:

    @davidp 9:20am BINGO

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  10. Cricklewood (21 comments) says:

    I beleive they actually have KPI’s which are more rigorous than those Serco face the details are too be found in the annual report. Seems they are achieving better results than Serco on average as well.

    http://corrections.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/565022/ar-corrections-2010-11.pdf

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  11. backster (2,076 comments) says:

    It appears that Serco is overseen by the Corrections Department. It would be better if they were permitted to attain the set targets by importing methods and tactics from their established overseas operations. That would then able an effective comparison of the best outcomes to be established.

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  12. kowtow (7,591 comments) says:

    Privatisation gone mad.
    Law and order is a proper function of the state and should not be in private hands.

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  13. flipper (3,538 comments) says:

    Miken et al….

    The fact is that Serco’s contract targets are totally different from the bureaucrat/Corr Off system.
    Any comparison would be like Apples and Potatoes.

    The bureaucrat’s system actually has escapes” budgeted” into each prisons’s plan.

    Those “public” ptisons are measured against their self-set and HO apprioved targets.

    CRAP!

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  14. david (2,535 comments) says:

    kowtow “Law and order is a proper function of the state and should not be in private hands.”

    Running prisons is not a “law and order” issue,it exists purely as an outcome of “law and order” activities (ie the police and the justice system.)

    Governments contract all sorts of activities outside of the policy-making arena. You might as well say that AA should not issue Warrants of Fitness, process vehicle registrations or collect Road User Charges.

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  15. YesWeDid (1,029 comments) says:

    Is there some sort of award for the most ridiculous spin? Because surely this must be a contender.

    ‘Polishing a turd’ is the expression that comes to mind.

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  16. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    flipper
    What do you mean by ‘budgeted’ escapes?

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  17. dime (9,392 comments) says:

    yeswedid – i agree! we should expect perfection! just like what we get from the corrections department.

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  18. Manolo (13,339 comments) says:

    The venal Peters chips in: http://news.msn.co.nz/nationalnews/8494949/privately-run-prisons-dont-work-nz-first

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  19. dime (9,392 comments) says:

    the wrongful releases are worrying.

    there are some good things in there: positive random drug tests 3%. The target was a max of 12%

    a plan in place within 28 days? meh, shit happens

    justified complaints come in under too

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  20. dime (9,392 comments) says:

    Cricklewood – what page am i looking on? the PDF is 107 pages.

    I did a search for “kpi” and all that came up was “3 kpis have been agreed on”

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  21. kowtow (7,591 comments) says:

    david@1000
    Liberty is one if the most basic rights we have in society. To privatise incarceration is a step too far.Of course prisons are part of law and order,how can they not be?

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  22. AG (1,760 comments) says:

    “It would be better if [Serco] were permitted to attain the set targets by importing methods and tactics from their established overseas operations. That would then able an effective comparison of the best outcomes to be established.”

    You mean successful methods and tactics like this: http://www.smh.com.au/national/detention-firm-fined-15m-for-care-failure-20111122-1nsy9.html?

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  23. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    Kowtow is right……the running of prisons IS a legitimate role of the state to preform…..says me a hardcore Libertarian. In the US crimes and criminals are manufactured by the State in exchange for backhanders by private prison lobbyists seeking to swell their holding numbers…its corruption writ large. And the issuing of warrants and regos is NOT a legitimate state function as roading is not a a legitimate state concern so the AA example above is void.

    Basic rule….when state money stolen from taxpayers is available to be had by private operators then graft and corruption are near guaranteed to occur.

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  24. Cricklewood (21 comments) says:

    @dime 10:52 Pages 27 through 45 Have tables and explanations

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  25. dime (9,392 comments) says:

    geez its buried. Would love to see a breakdown per prison.

    Breakouts:
    Corrections 2
    Serco 1

    Serious assualts per 100 prisoners
    Corrections 1.11
    Serco .75 then 1.11

    Corrections also have a rating for assualts against staff. 5 assualts. Cant find one for serco

    Unnatural Deaths
    Corrections 7
    Serco 0

    Selfharm incidents
    Corrections 13
    Serco 0

    From the corrections PDF:

    Percentage of prisoners who see a health professional in the first 24 hours. 92%

    Serco: The percentage of Prisoners who receive an initial health screen by a Registered Health
    Professional within four hours of reception. 99%.

    So corrections gets 24 hours and is still lower than serco who get 4 hours

    I cant really be assed going through any more but by eye balling that corrections PDF – they also failed 50% of their requirements. maybe more.

    Prisoner health seems better in the privately run prison.

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  26. Cricklewood (21 comments) says:

    Yeah a per prison breakdown would be better, I guess been a remand prison it has different dynamics to a maxi or similar. What surprised me is that some targets are easier ie for assault it .68 per 100 for corrections and .9 for serco.
    Comparing apples with oranges in many ways.

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  27. Paulus (2,496 comments) says:

    I think we should get Margaret Basley to hold an enquiry.

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  28. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    It’s probably perfectly feasible to compare performance with the public prisons, but I think you would need to request more information from the department and make sure that the measures were strictly comparable

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  29. flipper (3,538 comments) says:

    Miken..
    Apols for late reaponse…duty had priority.
    “budgeted” escapes: The quantum built into each and every prison business plan. The number may vary from 1 to 6. Of course the objective is Zero, but that is a target that does not exist – notwithstanding the millions spent on higher fencing and razor wire, none of which has any effect on any inmate determined to flee.
    The fact is that on any given day (but less on visiting days) many inmates get an opportunity to “escape”. They choose not to do so because they know it is just plain dumb.

    Dime….
    Good stuff. Well done!

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  30. dave_c_ (214 comments) says:

    In my view, comparisons are a smokescreen. If an individual or corporate enters into a legally binding contract to attain certain goals and performance levels, then they should be judged and held accountable to those agreed ciriteria.
    All of those commentators who think comparisons are required miss the point and are attempting to make excuses for Serco. I can hear every one of them bleating “Why should they have to meet their contractual obligations because maybe others dont “. Bollocks – If they dont raise the bar – dump them and get someone who will

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  31. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    flipper
    I think that’s a misstatement of what ‘target’ or ‘budget’ might actually mean in this context. It would be prohibitively expensive to reduce escapes to zero, which would be the ideal result for any prison. The ‘target’ is really the number that could be expected given enforcement of good standards. This kind of data really only makes sense as a trend, or in comparison with other prisons or jurisdictions.
    One thing Corrections seems to do well is track performance across a wide range of measures and present that in comparison with overseas jurisdictions. Of course, it is arguable whether that shows their performance is good, or that they are good at picking the ‘right’ measures – an essential skill in corporate planning.

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  32. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    dave_c_
    A fair point, but one could also expect that all the prisons would meet similar standards irrespective of whom is operating them.

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  33. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Actually Serco have “soft” targets compared with those of Corrections. Even some of those soft targets cannot be met. But nice try at spin, David.

    http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/strapping-chicken-on-prison.html

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  34. slijmbal (1,210 comments) says:

    Using KPIs and Performance Indicators like this on service contracts is pretty normal in the corporate world. It’s very common in IT. Initially, you only really care about the KPIs with financial consequences as those are the ones identified as most important to the customer (otherwise they wouldn’t have attached financial consequences to them). Once you’re hitting them you go on to the secondary indicators, the performance indicators, and bring them in line.

    It is pretty normal for them to missed in the first year during bedding in but if the KPIs (not the Performance Indicators) are badly missed then one reconsiders whether you’ve given the contract to the correct organisation. This is exacerbated by the tendency to over negotiate the indicators and end up with irrelevant or overly stringent ones pushed in to the agreement. Ideally, they should be b***y hard but achievable, and relevant.

    and as per dime as per 11:51, the external provider is invariably held to a higher standard than internal and more stringently managed than the internal.

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  35. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    Ha ha ross. of course, if DPF was interested, he would have found that there is quite a lot of comparative data. But he wasn’t.

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  36. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    If it is correct that the Serco targets are significantly easier, it is hard to see why. Isn’t Mt Eden a remand facility only, which would imply a significantly easier management task?

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  37. david (2,535 comments) says:

    kowtow 10:54 you have missed my point. The decisions about who will be incarcerated are not made by the prison management or Corrections department. Essentially what is contracted out is a property management and security service. then decision to deprive someone of his liberty is made outside that contract. No privatisation about it.

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  38. dime (9,392 comments) says:

    Dave C – there is nothing wrong with comparing organisations.

    Yes, this private company has a shit ton of things to work on and we expect it to be done. However, when the argument becomes the private prison has failed, it should be run by the government then dam right we should be comparing.

    I suspect, given the required info i could make an argument that all prisons should be privately run because private prisons get closer to target/ budget.

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  39. Mark (1,360 comments) says:

    I don’t know a hell a lot about prisons but is their not a danger that comparing Serco’s performance against Corrections is akin to comparing a public hospital to a private. The public version gets the tough jobs and the private hospitals get elective surgery. Does Serco have the high risk prisoners that say Paremoremo prison gets in the same percentages or are we using statistics to compare apples and oranges again.

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  40. dime (9,392 comments) says:

    Mark – its apples & oranges and thats the problem.

    I suspect Serco would be happy to take over maxi

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  41. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    That’s exactly right, Mark so you would expect Serco’s KPI’s to be a bit harder, given their lower risk inmates, or one would want to see comparisons with the Corrections-run remand facilities.

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  42. mudrunner (85 comments) says:

    If you’re not measuring it you’re not managing it. Measure public and private and get reasonable benchmarks.
    I can’t see why they all should have KPI descriptions the same. The targets against KPIs may differ, and if they do therein lies another very interesting discussion.

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  43. Viking2 (11,125 comments) says:

    Lets not forget that like National, Serco inherited what the Labour party had in place after 9 years or more. The more valid comparioson would be to look at the changes achieved since they took over. An Eden is a remand Prison with high numbers coming and going unlike that other state institutions with long term prisioners. There would be a much greater service demand at eden.

    And of course I nealy forgot.
    Its in Auckland and we all know what Aucklnders are like. Which is why we actually would like the Boimbay’s fenced.

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  44. mikenmild (10,630 comments) says:

    I think you touch on some valid points there V2, although I strongly suspect remand prisoners are actually much easier to manager, in general.
    I suspect that no matter what measures are selected, and how the comparisons are made, some would always cry “but that doesn’t account for xyz” as they argue for or against public or private provision.

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  45. Mr_Blobby (106 comments) says:

    All a load of old bollocks.
    What we need is real prisons not these 5 star hotel prisons.
    30-60 to a cell, they sleep head to toe, no room for fetal sleeping. Best spot is next to the shitter so you don’t have to climb over people if you go to the toilet in the middle of the night. Lights on all night. Standard meal fish head soup with rice. Dangerous prisoners shackled 24/7.
    The end result massive drop in recidivism, very little violence, every one learns to just get along. Positives, fraction of the cost of running the current prisons.

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  46. freemark (435 comments) says:

    I did some work for Serco early last year interviewing existing guards at Mt Eden applying for the Serco roles.I was very impressed with Serco’s criteria, which was hugely about the commitment to aid in rehabilitation of prisoners.
    Man, there was some mana in those guards, particularly the Maori & PI guys.. the guys from SA much less so.

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  47. freemark (435 comments) says:

    Nearly forgot.. the old Mt Eden is a pretty forbidding place.. and getting caught in the DB Rotorua at 19 yrs old back in 84 nearly cooked my Security Clearance to get in there..

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