AN AUDIT of management practices in Australia's detention system has found systemic problems including a lack of oversight and poor quality individual management plans.
The Australian National Audit Office released its report on Individual Management Services Provided to People in Immigration Detention on Monday.
It looked into the Commonwealth's management of more than 7600 detainees in Australia's 19 detention centres and community detention, as well as on Nauru and Manus Island.
The number of detainees has grown from about 1000 in June 2009 to 7670 people in September last year, many detained in privately-run facilities costing the government more than $1.7 billion in annual contracts.
In its audit of the individual management system, the ANAO looked at interaction with detainees, clothing, catering and activities, individual management plans and internet access.
While it recognised immigration detention was "one of the most complex, controversial and debated areas of government policy", it also highlighted failings within the system.
The report revealed the huge growth in irregular maritime arrivals in recent years had led to "considerable variability in the level and standard of services delivered" to detainees.
"The inconsistency in service provision has arisen largely because the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has not exercised sufficient strategic direction and national management oversight in response to the growth across the network," it reads.
"Generally, IMPs were of a poor quality and were not dynamic or meaningful documents that could be used to effectively meet the individual needs of detainees."
However, the ANAO did make four recommendations to the government which may help to address the problems it identified.
These included a major review of IMPs creating clear contract management guidance for the service providers; improving service delivery measurement and developing a communication strategy between service providers and the department.
The department has responded to the report, saying it had already made significant progress in information sharing and investment in departmental staff.
"The recognition from the majority of respondents to the People in Detention ANAO survey that they felt that they were treated respectfully, fairly and reasonably by the detention service provider and DIAC staff is a positive reflection on the dedicated staff who work in a complex and challenging environment," the department wrote.
"DIAC acknowledges that there is scope to realise further improvements through consistency in contractual requirements across the immigration detention facilities and will continue to build on the work that has already been undertaken."