he State Opposition alleges the State Government has spent millions on private investigators over a two year period.
The Opposition Leader Mark McGowan says tender documents show government agencies spent $3 million on several private investigators over a two year period from October 2010.
“I find this to be an extraordinary amount of money to be put towards the employment of private detectives in this state,” he said.
“This seems to me to be a lot of money at a time when there are other priorities in government, in particular our health system.”
It follows revelations the Department of Environment hired a private investigator, at a cost of more than $5,000 to find the source of a leak involving a former Minister Murray Cowper who was being investigated for alleged illegal land clearing.
Mr Cowper was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.
A spokeswoman for the Public Sector Commission says the use of private investigators is not unusual, and avoids accusations of internal bias.
She says it also ensures all inquiries are independent.
The Environment Minister Albert Jacob has defended his department’s handling of the leak, which included hiring the investigator.
He says it was a case of “serious misconduct”.
“As Minister, the CEO has my full support in him taking action that he deems necessary to enforce the standards of the Public Sector Management act, which is exactly what I would expect as Minister,” he said.
The investigator, Joe Baskwell, approached Labor MP Chris Tallentire who had received confidential information from a public servant.
Mr Tallentire has told the ABC he felt threatened by the investigator’s approach.
“I’m not accountable to some private investigator who starts making, I think, threats to me saying things like this may constitute an act of misconduct under the Corruption and Crime Commission,” he said.
“In other words, I don’t really see where this guy’s going to stop.”
Mr Tallentire says he is offended a department would target a Member of Parliament in such a manner.
“That means we’ve got public servants, managerial public servants actually ordering an outside of Government person, a private investigator to pursue a member of parliament,” he said.
“I find that totally unacceptable.”
The private investigator Joe Baskwell says he was professional at all times.
“As soon as he said he wasn’t going to co-operate I sent him an email and thanked him for getting back to me,” he told the ABC.
Yesterday, the Opposition Leader Mark McGowan accused the government of running a police state.
“Departments have their own process to investigate internal matters,” he said.
“I think employing shady, outside private investigators is not desirable in the public sector and what’s more this could be costing many, many thousands of dollars.”
Mr McGowan said he had never encountered such a situation in his 16 years in Parliament.
“I have never, ever heard of this before,” he said.
However, Mr Baskwell told the ABC he has previously been called in by a Labor MLC to investigate political leaks.
He says this occurred on two occasions.
“A Labor MLC thought that her parliamentary officer had been leaking information to the Liberal Party and this was the second time,” he said.
Meanwhile, former Minister Murray Cowper says he wants the Corruption and Crime Commission to investigate the leak.
He has also lashed out at Labor for what he has called a “grubby little stunt,” by releasing unconfirmed information to the media.
He says the leak is indicative of “gross misconduct.”