Australia's Department of Immigration has blamed IT systems for delays in turning over detailed information on serious incidents recorded at detention centres to a parliamentary inquiry.
The Joint Select Committee on Australia's Immigration Detention Network, established 16 June and convened for the first time last night, received 597 pages of data [pdf] from the department on incidents recorded at detention facilities since January 2008.
It had sought from the department copies of all incident reports filed by immigration facility managers Serco and health services provider International Health and Medical Services (IHMS).
The department said it had received 9157 incident reports from Serco between 1 October 2009 and the 30 June 2011.
These were recorded in a Compliance, Case Management, Detention and Settlement (CCMDS) portal.
The department also received 1869 reports from G4S, a firm that managed detention centres before Serco was contracted. G4S incidents were recorded in a "legacy system" called the Immigration Services Information System (ISIS).
The department claimed there was no quick way of accessing incident reports, such as use of a batch process for extraction.
"It would take a departmental officer approximately 919 hours of work (this is equivalent to around 25 weeks of work for a full time officer) to extract all reports from the system as each report needs to be extracted individually," the department said.
Instead, the department produced a spreadsheet that aggregated every incident recorded according to tags such as "escape", "voluntary starvation" and "self-harm".
The department said that getting to IHMS incident reports prior to January 2010 was difficult because they were not electronically recorded at this time.
Alleged abuse against staff
The committee had also sought detailed data on actions taken by Serco for incidents where the contractor's or department's staff had been allegedly abused or threatened "by detainees or other persons within the Detention Network".
Department figures showed Serco recorded 871 instances of "alleged or observed inappropriate behaviour... towards Serco staff" until 30 June this year.
"Action taken by Serco in relation to these incidents are recorded in multiple systems depending upon the nature of the incident," the department noted.
"The very detailed information sought in the [committee's] question is not readily available in consolidated form and it would be a major task to collect and assemble it.
"In order to report on the outcome for each incident, the department would need to manually interrogate these systems.
"The department estimates that this would take a departmental officer an average of 30 minutes for each incident. This equates to approximately 58 working days."
Figures that were released by the department showed the number of detainees hospitalised, treated for starvation and injuries from self-harm.