Australia — Western Australia’s corruption watchdog has confirmed it is investigating the state’s police commissioner over allegations he gave false evidence to a bushfire inquiry and misused his corporate credit card.
The Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) issued a statement on Tuesday saying it was investigating Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan on both counts but would not provide further details.
“It is the commission’s role to investigate such allegations concerning senior public officers to determine whether they can be substantiated or proven,” the statement said.
“In view of the public importance of this case, the commission will finalise its investigation as soon as possible.
“No time frame for completion of the investigations can be given at the moment.”
In a statement WA Police said the commissioner was legally constrained from making any comment on the matter.
It said Mr O’Callaghan had spoken to the minister on Tuesday but had not been asked to stand down by anyone in the government while the CCC inquiry continued.
WA’s Emergency Services Minister Troy Buswell expressed confidence in the commissioner, saying it would be premature to pass judgment before the CCC investigation was complete.
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said he did not think Mr O’Callaghan should be stood aside, but a decision on his contract renewal should be delayed until the CCC inquiry was completed.
The West Australian newspaper reported the CCC had obtained a police audio recording that raised doubts about Mr O’Callaghan’s evidence to the inquiry into last year’s devastating Perth Hills bushfire.
The inquiry, headed by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty, heard from Mr O’Callaghan that he was told of the fires during the afternoon of February 6 but was only told how serious the situation was about two hours later.
The fires destroyed 71 homes and damaged 39 others in the suburbs of Kelmscott and Roleystone.
When first told of the fires, Mr O’Callaghan was watching cricket at Perth’s WACA ground.
The commissioner was criticised after the fires for having stayed at the cricket and not immediately calling a meeting of the State Emergency Coordination Group, which was arranged for 6.30pm that day.
The other matter the CCC is investigating relates to the use of his police corporate credit card.
The West Australian reported that payments to three hotels and restaurants in the northwest town of Broome were being investigated after a tip-off from a WA government lawyer in relation to a visit by Mr O’Callaghan to the Kimberley in January last year.