ICAC to start SES inquiry

The state’s corruption watchdog is due to begin an inquiry in Sydney today into allegations senior State Emergency Service staff misused taxpayer funds and sacked one of their own in a cover-up attempt.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is examining allegations SES Commissioner Murray Kear unfairly dismissed Deputy Commissioner Tara McCarthy from her position on May 14, in reprisal for Ms McCarthy making allegations to Mr Kear that SES Deputy Commissioner Steven Pearce had engaged in corrupt conduct.

The ICAC is also examining allegations that Mr Kear improperly showed favour to Mr Pearce by failing to appropriately investigate claims made by Ms McCarthy that Mr Pearce had engaged in corruption.

The corruption watchdog has been investigating the allegations since at least September 6 this year, when ICAC officers conducted a raid at the SES state headquarters in Wollongong.

At the time, it was reported computers, phones and other portable communication devices belonging to senior management were seized.

This week, ICAC is also due to hear allegations Mr Kear made ‘‘false statements or attempted to mislead’’ an ICAC officer.

Today, ICAC is expected to hear evidence from Tara McCarthy, while Steven Pearce and Murray Kear are not expected to take the stand until Friday. 

Witnesses will also be called tomorrow and Thursday.

ICAC Commissioner David Ipp will preside, and counsel assisting the commission will be Michael Fordham, SC, and Callan O’Neill. 

The inquiry is expected to continue for up to two weeks.

During the lead-up to the inquiry, the SES Volunteers’ Association has been at pains to highlight no volunteers have been accused of wrongdoing.

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