Security company G4S allegedly lied to the government in order to boost the profits it made from running a immigration detention centre near Gatwick Airport, a former employee has told parliament.
Earlier this month an undercover investigation into Brook House by the BBC's Panorama programme showed G4S staff verbally and physically abusing individuals being held at the centre, which holds criminals and asylum-seekers who are due to be removed from the UK.
Nathan Ward, who worked at Brook House, alleged he raised concerns about the culture at the centre at the "highest levels" of the security organisation but little was done about it.
He also suggested G4S, which has frequently found itself at the centre of scandals such as failing to provide enough security staff for the London Olympics, earned profits "far in excess of what was meant to be made" and "categorically" charged the government for staff and equipment which it did not provide. The company denies this.
The BBC investigation showed incidences of alleged assault, racial abuse and the mocking of detainees by employees at Brook House. It also found endemic drug use, a bullying culture, regular violence and a failure to report instances of self-harm at the centre, which can hold up to 508 men awaiting deportation.
Ward, who worked as duty director at Brook House before resigning from G4S in 2014, also alleged staff sometimes dealt the drug spice to detainees at the detention centre and said there was immense pressure on staff to deport individuals.
"The only way I can describe it, it does seem there's an awful lot of collusion between G4S and the Home Office," he said, suggesting the government has become "too reliant" on the outsourcing company.
However, many people awaiting deportation were ultimately allowed to remain in the UK, which made Ward believe "detention is not being used as a last resort". He also suggested company came under additional pressure to deport more individuals in election years because politicians wanted to show they were tough on immigration.
Ward said his years of attempted whistleblowing about the management culture at G4S, dating back to 2004, had failed to result in any substantial changes at the company. However, he claimed that in return he has received threatening phone calls and had his car tyres slashed.
Peter Neden, G4S regional president for UK and Ireland, told MPs he was shocked by the findings of the Panorama investigation: "We are undertaking an immediate action plan to make sure that this can't happen again. We take these events very seriously indeed. There is no place for behaviour of that kind in our business."
He confirmed that 10 staff had been suspended following the programme's broadcast and three had been sacked.
MPs raised concerns that the decision to mix individuals awaiting deportation on immigration grounds with criminals was not conducive to a positive environment.
G4S's Jerry Petherick, who runs the company's custodial and detention centres, also pledged to increase the use of body-worn cameras on workers at the centre.
Both men denied the company was making substantial profits from the centre but refused to disclose how much money was being made, citing commercial reasons.
"We're making a profit, but not the profit reported in the media," said Neden. "I'm afraid I'm no just at liberty to divulge the profits we make because that would put us at a disadvantage with our competitors."
G4S has been contacted for further comment regarding Ward's allegations.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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