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Questions over WA minister's settlement

AAP logoAAP 13/12/2016

WA Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis must speak out about a confidential defamation case settlement, confirming whether the cash came out of his own pocket or was footed by taxpayers, the opposition says.

The controversy unfolded after a memo by former Department of Corrective Services chief financial officer George Kessaris was leaked in March, detailing why he refused to sign the annual financial report over wasteful spending and fiscal mismanagement.

Mr Francis then suggested at a press conference the senior public servant was incompetent because he had approved the expenditure.

"I accept that suggestion is wrong and I retract it," the minister wrote in a letter of apology to Mr Kessaris last month.

Mr Kessaris had engaged the services of legal firm Bennett + Co and has since privately settled the matter.

Opposition corrective services spokesman Paul Papalia said Mr Francis needed to come clean on who footed the bill.

"The minister's integrity is in doubt. He needs to publicly explain who has paid this settlement," Mr Papalia told reporters on Tuesday.

"If this minister has had this settlement paid by the taxpayer, then he needs to be honest about it. He needs to have the courage to come out of hiding and tell the public about it."

He accused Mr Francis of being a bully, saying he tried to act as the state government's "tough guy", and still needed to answer questions about the issues concerning Mr Kessaris.

These included on-call and after-hours allowances being paid to senior executives who were not entitled to them and the 2014-15 prisons uniform budget blowing out by more than $1 million - just to change the colour from khaki to blue.

Mr Francis was sought for comment.

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