Transporting inmates costs thousands

The row over prison transport costs escalated yesterday as internal estimates obtained by The West Australian showed how thousands of dollars are spent on moving prisoners around the State.

Contractor Serco, which runs WA's prison transport services, quoted the Government $14,316.82 to transport a prisoner from Hakea Prison in Perth to Roebourne Prison last January.

Almost half the estimated cost was to charter a plane from Jandakot to Karratha.

The State Government and Serco defended the costs and the prison transport contract, while the WA Prison Officers Union and the State Opposition called for an inquiry into the costs being charged and paid.

Serco Asia Pacific chief executive Mark Irwin said last night the company had investigated allegations of seemingly exorbitant prisoner transport quotes, some as high as $40,000, and had not found or been shown any evidence to substantiate them.

Another estimate shows it cost $6937.40 to transport a prisoner from Hakea Prison to Albany Regional Prison by secure vehicle in April last year. Serco said yesterday it had been paid $518,490 for 170 prisoner movements that were not already covered by its contract in the first nine months of last year.

Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis said Serco had a monopoly on being able to provide some services such as prisoner transport in WA and called for the State Parliament's public accounts committee to investigate the issue.

He said he believed more competition would deliver a better price and better services.

Prison Officers Union secretary John Welch said prisoner transport could be done more cheaply and efficiently if it was done by the Government, not a private company.

Shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia revealed data that he said showed prisoner transport costs had rocketed since Serco took over the contract.

The information showed a funeral escort from the nearest prison to Meekatharra cost $3430 with G4S in 2011 and had increased to $31,927 with Serco in 2011-12.

Mr Francis said the figures could not be compared because G4S's contract was costs plus labour while in Serco's contract, it absorbs the cost of flights and transport.

The West Australian

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