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Serco's public service contracts in WA are overseen by the com-pany's high-ranking managers who are based on the other side of the country.

Mark Irwin, the chief executive officer for the British firm's Asia Pacific arm, works from Sydney, as does Paul Mahoney, the managing director for the WA Corrective Services contract.

Neither was available to talk to _The West Australian _about Serco's role in WA's public services yesterday.

Hailing from Melbourne, Mr Irwin has worked in China, South-East Asia and the US be-fore returning to take up a senior role with Serco last January.

Serco has built up a global and varied portfolio of service contracts since, according to its website, it "began in the 1920s as a British subsidiary of Radio Corporation of America, providing technical support for the country's growing cinema industry".

But the company has attracted controversy in recent years, particularly in Britain.

Last month the British Government revealed Serco had agreed to repay $127.56 million after accusations it overcharged on contracts to monitor offenders using electronic tags.

The British attorney-general said Serco, and another private firm G4S, had charged the Government millions for people they were not monitoring.

In WA, Serco holds contracts for services for Acacia prison, court security and custodial services, the Fiona Stanley Hospital, immigration detention services, transport management systems for Transperth and the Wandoo reintegration facility.