National audit office to investigate asylum seeker Healthcare in detention
The Australian National Audit Office is conducting a sweeping audit of asylum seeker healthcare and the relationship between the immigration department and the multinational company that provides medical services.
The ANAO began the audit in July 2015 with a focus on the contractual measurements in place between the immigration department and International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), which is a subsidiary of global healthcare giant International SOS.
The announcement of the audit followed a series of articles from Guardian Australia looking at IHMS and its relationship with the immigration department. It revealed the tension at the heart of IHMS between meeting clinical care objectives and fulfilling its commercial objectives under its contracts with the government agency.
An information sheet seen by Guardian Australia said the audit would assess the effectiveness of the immigration department’s administration of services in onshore detention centres.
According to the ANAO sheet, the audit will assess whether “a robust contract is in place to support the effective and efficient delivery of health services”.
It will also examine whether IHMS is providing health services in line with these contractual requirements, and whether “effective arrangements have been established to monitor health services provision and manage IHMS’s performance.”
The information page said: “The ANAO has wide information-gathering powers that provide access to commonwealth premises, documents and information. The access and information gathering powers are balanced by strict confidentiality provisions.”
Fieldwork to gather information for the audit began in July 2015, and is expected to continue until the end of October 2015.
Guardian Australia’s investigation uncovered that IHMS failed to meet medical targets, included incorrect data in reports, did not undertake working with children checks for staff in Perth and admitted internally that it was “inevitable” fraud would be committed as it tried to meet government standards.
IHMS also encouraged staff to “grab from the excuse bag” to help it meet health targets set by the immigration department.
Then prime minister Tony Abbott said the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, would look at the representations that fraud would occur. A further investigationfound staff were deployed on Manus Island without police checks in what appeared to be an attempt to mislead the immigration department. Both the company and the immigration department were investigating the allegations.
The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young referred a series of allegations arising from the reports to the Australian federal police for investigation.
The ANAO is inviting public submissions to the audit, which are confidential.
The audit is likely to be tabled in parliament in June 2016.