Former Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton and Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville (Images: AAP)

As Victoria's hotel quarantine inquiry winds up today after weeks of intense questioning, thousands of dollars in legal fees, and one ministerial scalp, perhaps the biggest question is still unresolved: who made the decision to use private security guards at hotels?

For weeks, the state’s most senior politicians, bureaucrats and police have awkwardly tried to avoid responsibility for that call. Their answers show a left hand that couldn't talk to the right -- a cluttered bureaucratic hivemind that failed its biggest test.

The cops

On March 27, in a text sent to Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw, Victoria’s then-police commissioner Graham Ashton asked why the feds weren’t guarding people at hotels. Then, 10 minutes later, Ashton sent a follow up text confirming Victoria would use private security contractors.