02/06/2016 - 15:57

Sodexo picked for new prison

02/06/2016 - 15:57

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The state government has selected Sodexo as preferred operator of its new women’s prison, adding to a string of big contract wins in Western Australia by the global facilities management company.

Acting Corrective Services Minister Albert Jacob. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state government has selected private company Sodexo as preferred operator of its new women’s prison, adding to a string of big contract wins in Western Australia by the global facilities management group.

Sodexo has been chosen to run the 256-bed Women’s Remand and Reintegration Facility, which is currently being built on the grounds of Hakea Prison at a cost of $24.6 million.

It would be the third privately operated prison in WA, in addition to Acacia and Wandoo, which are run by UK-based company Serco.

Acting Corrective Services Minister Albert Jacob said the government would now enter negotiations with Sodexo, which were expected to be completed in late July. 

“The Department of Corrective Services conducted a competitive tender process and evaluated options to determine the best value for the state,” Mr Jacob said.

“If negotiations between the state and Sodexo are unsuccessful, the facility will be operated by the Department of Corrective Services.”

Sodexo has 20 years’ experience in the justice system in the UK, where it manages five prisons with more than 5,000 prisoners, 800 of whom are women.

Mr Jacob said it has been awarded Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons’ highest rating for three of the prisons it managed.

Sodexo will develop partnerships with non-government organisations to provide rehabilitation and reintegration services and programs at the facility.

The new facility, due to open in December, will ease pressure on the 318-bed Bandyup Women’s Prison, which is close to capacity.

Today’s news follows two big contract wins for Sodexo in WA.

In November last year, it was awarded a contract to run Shell’s Prelude floating LNG facility, off the Kimberley coast.

In March this year, it signed a signing a $2.5 billion contract to manage all of Rio Tinto’s mine camps and other facilities in the Pilbara for 10 years.

The tender process for the new prison contract included a comparative estimate based on running it as a public prison.

It also followed long-running criticism by unions and others of Serco’s performance.

WA Prison Officers’ Union secretary John Welch said he was disappointed a private operator had been chosen ahead of a bid by the public sector.

 

“We had worked on an outstanding public sector cost comparator and therefore we are disappointed that this decision has been made, which we believe is based partly on ideology,” he said.

“WA’s prison system is suffering chronic overcrowding, with the prison population heading towards a record 6300 prisoners.

“So much of the strain has been borne by public prisons and this decision is a slap in the face for all those staff who have done outstanding work to manage this overcrowding crisis.

“The government is basically telling experienced public sector staff that they’re not up to the job of managing the new prison, and it would prefer to give the contract to one of the world’s largest multinational corporations instead.” 

The Economic Regulation Authority published a report last year on the efficiency and performance of WA’s prisons, but found a lack of data meant it could not compare public versus private prisons.

“Currently, little information is available on the performance of public prisons,” the ERA report said.

“In contrast, private prisons are held to high standards of transparency and accountability.

“This includes the publication of annual reports on the performance of private prisons against contractual obligations.

“Publishing performance information on public prisons will help to ensure greater accountability and transparency.”

The ERA report said the overall costs of running the state’s 15 prisons had risen from $501 million in 2010-11 to $615 million in 2013-14.

It recommended the introduction of a set of performance measures for individual prisons and the prison system as a whole.

The performance measures for individual prisons would form the basis of a ‘league table’ of prisons.

 

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