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.