A G4S security guard observes the Fairfax media boat at the detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. 27th July 2013. Photo by Jason South

A G4S security guard at the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: Jason South

The sacked operator of the controversial immigration detention centre at Manus Island, G4S, paid no Australian tax in 2012, Fairfax Media has learnt.

Financial reports filed with the corporate regulator show the ATO in fact paid G4S a cash refund of $2.2 million.

In the same year it paid no company tax in its home jurisdiction, Britain, according to a report from the British National Audit Office.

Until this week, G4S held a $244 million contract to run the detention centre, which has been racked by violence.

A Fairfax Media analysis of contracts issued by the Department of Immigration also shows that:

■ At $900 a day, a bed at the government's two offshore detention centres at Manus Island and Nauru costs more than a luxury suite with a harbour view at five-star Sydney hotel the Shangri-La (which was $590 a night on Friday).

■ The department has given more than $5.6 billion worth of work to four contractors - G4S, Serco, Transfield and Toll Holdings - since 2003.

■ Toll has been paid more than $3.5 million to provide a kitchen at Manus Island since the centre reopened in October 2012.

In its 2012 financial report, the most recent available, the local arm of G4S, G4S Australia Holdings, said about $775,000 of the tax refund was due to making a loss that year.

However, the remainder was put down to ''prior period over-provision'' and ''recognition of previously unrecognised tax losses''.

Asked how the tax refund arose, G4S regional managing director for the southern Pacific, Darren Boyd, said: ''The Australian Tax Office determined a refund for G4S in accordance with Australian tax laws.''

''Our only interaction with the ATO was to lodge our tax returns.''

The accounts show that in 2012 the local company paid its British parent more than $4 million in fees despite declaring a loss of about $264,000.

G4S Australia is just one of a network of group subsidiaries that includes companies in tax havens the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Luxembourg and Guernsey.

Greg Barton, the Herb Feith research professor for the study of Indonesia at Monash University, said that there were ''reasons to be critical of G4S and sceptical of the way it structures its business and the services they provide''.

''At a time when we're talking about job losses in the automotive industry, Qantas, and concerns in downturn in investment in mining infrastructure, it does seem strange that [the government] is putting such a large chunk of taxpayers' money into an international firm that doesn't even appear to be paying any tax in Australia.''