Corruption and Crime Commissioner’s ‘blood boils’ over police handling of referrals

WA’s corruption watchdog chief has said his “blood boils” over police failure to pursue criminal charges against public officers, instead opting to deal with the matter in-house.

Giving evidence to a Parliament committee on Wednesday, Commissioner John McKechnie also called for government departments to take more responsibility for addressing internal corruption, to allow the Commission to address more “serious” issues.

“What I would like to see across agencies is a greater recognition of the risk of corruption within their agencies and treating it as a risk like any other risk, like a health and safety risk,” Mr McKechnie said.

Mr McKechnie said “time after time” the CCC would refer a matter to the police who would tell the officer they were going to conduct a criminal investigation.

But he said the public servant would exercise their right not to speak and so police would use discretion not to prosecute and instead pursue the matter “managerially,” which means the officer was now obliged to answer questions as an employee.

“It’s mainly police that use a discretion and it’s a discretion not to prosecute. It makes my blood boil at times but there’s not much I can do about it,” he said.

Mr McKechnie said the officer would face no further criminal consequences, but may face managerial action.

The commissioner also called for WA to adopt a Re-Employment Register, similar to what exists in South Australia, that would allow agencies to check if former public sector employees were eligible to return to the public sector.

Mr McKechnie said it was an “enormous struggle” to find out if someone had been a public officer.

“Sometimes a person resigns after being notified of disciplinary proceedings and the Department says ‘well, that saves us trouble’. Six months later they pop up in another department,” he said.

A register would require a public agency to conclude an investigation even after a person had resigned, Mr McKechnie told the committee.

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