Serco, the private firm that runs WA's prison transport service, faces a $200,000 penalty for the escape of two prisoners who were on the run for 36 hours and sparked a massive police manhunt at the weekend.
Under its $210 million, five-year contract with the State Government, Serco will be penalised for the botched transfer when the prisoners - one a violent rapist serving an 11-year jail sentence - escaped from a van at Geraldton Airport as they were being transferred to Hakea Prison on Friday.
A Serco spokesman said yesterday that the multinational firm would not decide whether to meet Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis' call to cover the cost of police operations to recapture the pair until it has done its own inquiry.
Rapist Cameron John Graham had been given the privilege of being transferred to Greenough Regional Prison, close to his family, for Christmas in a decision that Mr Francis insisted he was unaware of and labelled "irresponsible and wrong" yesterday.
The Department of Corrective Services could not say yesterday how many prisoners have been allowed the perk of being transferred to a prison near their family for Christmas because of the way its offender management system operated.
A spokesman said the department would not reveal who had responsibility for approving such a privilege or the guidelines or criteria used because they were under review.
Police recaptured Graham, who was convicted in November of the brutal rape of a woman in her Beeliar home, and Kelden Edward Fraser, who was on remand for alleged armed robbery, in the bush north of Mullewa at 1.10am on Sunday.
Mr Francis said on ABC radio that his initial advice had been the escape was the fault of "human beings rather than the material state of the van".
"For whatever reason, either the plane was delayed or something," he said. "I'm not quite sure but they were in the van for a small amount of time.
"So I suspect, for whatever reason, the secure perimeter of the van wasn't properly locked down. They weren't in handcuffs.
"Obviously one of them is a maximum-security prisoner.
"So the procedure obviously, from what it looks like at the moment, wasn't followed.
"That allowed them to kick their way out of the soft perimeter of the van and do a runner."
More than 100 officers on land and in the air were involved in the search for the fugitives.
Opposition corrective services minister Paul Papalia called on the minister to confirm he would be invoicing Serco for the cost of the search and he said there were many issues relating to Serco.
"My view is that the Barnett Government is way too close to the Serco company," Mr Papalia said. "We know the Barnett Gov-ernment has awarded contracts worth billions of dollars across the public sector to this company. It's not in the interests of the Barnett Government or Serco to reveal failings of the company."
Serco's contract with the Government states that for the escape of someone in custody, it will be penalised "$100,000 per secure person in custody escape from a secure environment".
The WA Prison Officers' Union yesterday accused the Government of spending $33,000 on transferring a prisoner from Perth to Broome just before Christmas. The department said last night that the amount spent was less than $5000.
In the 2012-13 financial year, Serco was fined for 19 incidents - known in its contract as "specific events" - which included a death in custody, the escape of a person in custody, a serious loss of control of a person in custody and a person in custody inflicting a permanent disability on themselves or another. The fines amounted to $126,120.
In one case, a juvenile escaped from custody while being escorted from a regional courthouse to an adjacent police station. Five incidents related to the unauthorised release of someone from a court custody area because of "administration errors".
A Serco spokesman said more than half of the 19 failures related to the company not performing a service such as keeping guard at a hospital or not meeting a scheduled appointment.