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Whistleblowing Women

Australian women who blow the whistle on corruption in their workplaces.

Tara McCarthy : a Whistleblowing Woman in the New South Wales State Emergency Service.

In November 2012 Tara McCarthy was employed by the NSW State Emergency Service to review procurement contracts and deliver budget savings.

Ms McCarthy's moves to ensure "appropriate governance" relating to overtime, use of motor vehicles, parking and travel allegedly caused some "disquiet" in the SES ranks.

She investigated the use by her fellow deputy, Mr Steven Pearce, of his corporate credit card to pay for roof-racks "to carry surfboards" on his SES vehicle and later to pay for electric brakes to be installed "for the towing of his camper trailer".

The head of the NSW State Emergency Service, Mr Murray Kear, allegedly signed off on the installations on the basis the money was repaid 15 months and two years respectively after the events.

After further credit card statements were brought to Ms McCarthy, she engaged public service auditor IAB to do a "desktop audit", which uncovered potential irregularities totalling more than $11,000.

Ms McCarthy also raised concerns about Mr Pearce approving $60,000 worth of overtime for one colleague, the private use of a company car by another, and entering into two consultancy agreements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The inquiry heard Mr Pearce "provided badging and logos" so the contracts would look like SES documents.

The contracts were later terminated.

On Tuesday 3 December 2013, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) heard that the head of the NSW State Emergency Service, Murray Kear, sacked Deputy Commissioner Ms McCarthy in May 2013 after she initiated the investigations into the use of SES funds by her fellow deputy, Steven Pearce.

The ICAC was told that Mr Kear "allowed the importance of ... mateship to permeate the manner in which he administered a significant public entity".

The ICAC heard Mr Kear and Mr Pearce had known each other since at least 2006 and "the two men and their families holiday together".

Counsel assisting the ICAC, Michael Fordham, SC, said Mr Kear faced a potential criminal charge if the inquiry found Ms McCarthy was "terminated as a reprisal" for investigating Mr Pearce.

Mr Fordham said Ms McCarthy had saved the SES "significant amounts of money" during her tenure.

Despite the fact that there were "never any competence or performance issues" arising out of her employment, she was not given a chance to comment before she was sacked.

"It is telling that a cab had already been arranged to take Ms McCarthy home," Mr Fordham said.

Senior public servant Tara McCarthy sacked for being a whistleblower, ICAC hears, Michaela Whitbourn, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 December 2013 : Read more:

SES Commissioner Murray Kear found not guilty of sacking Tara Mccarthy because she was a whistleblower.

On 16 March 2016, in Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court, magistrate Greg Grogin found there had been ''no element of revenge, payback or retaliation against Ms McCarthy" when NSW State Emergency Service Commissioner Murray Kear terminated Tara McCarthy's employment.

Mr Grogin found there were many factors behind the dismissal of Ms McCarthy by Mr Kear.

"The inability of Ms McCarthy to assimilate into, co-operate within and lead the SES was, I find, the primary and substantial reason for her dismissal by the defendant."

"I am satisfied that the defendant did not dismiss Ms McCarthy as a reprisal, substantial or otherwise, for her making public interest disclosures."

Mr Grogin accepted that Mr Kear had gone to considerable expense and time trying to resolve the toxic relationship between Ms McCarthy and Mr Pearce, and had ultimately moved to sack Ms Mcarthy when the disruption in his executive ranks became too great and threatened to affect the performance of the SES.

Mr Kear was found not guilty of sacking Ms McCarthy because she was a whistleblower.

Before the ICAC finding against him, Mr Kear had a distinguished 34-year career in the NSW public service.

"It's ruined my life," Mr Kear said.

"It's been a terrible journey for my wife, my family ... but what really disappoints me is that it got to this stage, that we had to come to court to prove what was obvious to most people right from the word go."

Mr Kear had faced the prospect of two years in jail.

He said he had lost his job as SES commissioner, he had endured the indignity of his name and photograph being splashed across the media and $160,000 of his life savings had been eaten up in legal fees.

Mr Kear believes that ICAC investigators acted in "bad faith" by not passing on evidence that would have cleared him.

ICAC cost me everything, says exonerated SES chief Murray Kear, Sharri Markson, The Australian, 17 March 2016