Sunday 23 July 2017

Garda HR boss warns: 'There is never just one cockroach'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was steadfast in his support for Ms O’Sullivan when questioned by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin about the length of time it took her to inform the minister for justice about financial irregularities. Stock picture
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was steadfast in his support for Ms O’Sullivan when questioned by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin about the length of time it took her to inform the minister for justice about financial irregularities. Stock picture
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The head of Garda human resources, John Barrett, quoted a former boss saying "there is never just one cockroach" as he outlined his concerns over finances at Templemore Training College.

The remark is contained in a 120-page report he has sent to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that outlines his own review of the situation at Templemore.

In the documents, seen by the Irish Independent, Mr Barrett gives extensive details of his efforts to raise concerns about financial malpractice.

A separate internal audit the Garda Training College published in March showed a complex web of bank accounts, with some used for purposes other than those for which they were intended.

That included buying gifts, spending on entertainment and sponsoring Garda clubs.

It found that concerns about financial irregularities were first expressed more than a decade ago.

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Mr Barrett, a civilian, was appointed as executive director human resources - a role that has responsibility for the Garda College - in October 2014.

A whole section of Mr Barrett's own extensive report- sent to the PAC - is dedicated to the cultural lessons he argues must be learned from the history of the finances at the Training College.

Mr Barrett said that gardaí "as guardians of the public purse, need to understand how our internal guard dogs did not bark" and "most especially how this came to happen over many years".

He later went on to say that he believes "cultural investigation is crucial".

Mr Barrett added that this is because - as his former boss at another organisation used to tell him - "John, there is never just one cockroach".

He concluded the section of his report saying that he's of the "clear view that there are very clear cultural lessons to be learned from this history".

Last night, a Garda spokesman did not directly address the remarks made by Mr Barrett in the documents. But he reiterated Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan's commitment to cultural change in the force.

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"The Commissioner has consistently referred to the need to change the culture within the force and that is at the heart of the modernisation and renewal programme," he said.

The PAC is set to discuss the documents sent to them by Mr Barrett this morning.

Ms O'Sullivan and Mr Barrett gave contradictory evidence to the committee last week.

She said that she found out about financial issues at the college during a "brief meeting" over a cup of tea in July 2015. She said that she immediately set up a team to investigate the matter.

Ms O'Sullivan also said she did not inform the justice minister of the issue at that time as she wanted more information.

However, Mr Barrett contradicted her version of events, telling TDs the July 2015 meeting lasted more than two hours.

The documents sent to the PAC by Mr Barrett back up his account of the length of the meeting.

Ms O'Sullivan is due to appear before the PAC again on July 13.

This is a pre-arranged meeting to answer questions on the separate controversy over the almost one million bogus breath tests recorded by gardaí and the more than 14,000 wrongful traffic convictions.

However, TDs will this morning consider whether she should be called before them sooner to answer more questions about the college.

Ms O'Sullivan is the accounting officer of An Garda Síochána and is therefore answerable to the PAC, the Dáil's public spending watchdog.

The issue of the finances at Templemore was raised in the Dáil during leaders questions.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was steadfast in his support for Ms O'Sullivan when questioned by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin about the length of time it took her to inform the minister for justice about financial irregularities.

"I have faith and every confidence in the Garda Commissioner to do her job," said Mr Kenny.

He noted that the PAC and the Comptroller and Auditor General are examining the Templemore issue.

Irish Independent

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