Tuesday 23 May 2017

Gardai alerted to Temple Bar Trust anomalies

Forensic audit reveals number of suspected financial irregularities in troubled company

Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

GARDAI have visited the headquarters of Temple Bar Cultural Trust after being alerted to a wave of suspected financial irregularities, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Two detectives from Pearse Street Garda station met with officials after receiving an email from the trust's interim chief executive and Dublin City Arts Officer, Ray Yeates.

The meeting lasted for over an hour and centred upon the preliminary findings of a forensic audit which is examining spending transactions at the taxpayer-owned body.

Senior managers at Dublin City Council suspect that unlawful loans were paid out to staff without the knowledge of the board. The loans are understood to have been granted in the form of 'salary top-ups' and constituted thousands of euro in some instances.

It is also believed that there was serious abuse of company credit cards and that personal expenses were charged to the company.

A number of informed sources have confirmed to the Sunday Independent that the company is now in "regular contact" with gardai while the forensic audit is taking place.

The investigation is due to be completed by the end of the month and the findings will be forwarded to gardai for examination.

Detectives will then decide what course of action, if any, should be taken and may decide to prepare a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The suspected financial irregularities at the trust have alarmed Dublin City Council officials and have been brought to the attention of the new city manager Owen Keegan. It was decided that gardai should be notified of the forensic audit, given that the trust is entirely owned on behalf of the taxpayer by Dublin City Council.

Council bosses are determined to ensure that the trust is wound down by the end of the year with its cultural functions due to be transferred to Dublin City Council.

One of the most powerful public servants in the capital, Head of Finance at Dublin City Council Kathy Quinn, has been installed as head of a 'transitional committee' which is overseeing the transfer process.

However, the potential for the beginning of a full Garda investigation into the company could scupper plans to close down the trust by the end of the year, sources believe. A spokesperson for the trust confirmed that gardai called to the offices but did not provide any further details about the meeting.

"An Garda Siochana called to the offices of Temple Bar Cultural Trust on Wednesday October 23. It would be inappropriate for Temple Bar Cultural Trust to comment on the nature of the visit," the spokesperson said.

It's been confirmed that Ray Yeates and two other officials involved in the audit process discussed their concerns with gardai. A number of the initial findings of the audit – which included the discovery of salary top-ups – were communicated to the detectives.

Meanwhile, an independent investigation carried out by former IBEC official Turlough O'Sullivan is scathing of the way in which the trust has been run. O'Sullivan concludes that he would have recommended that the trust should be wound down had a decision not already been taken to do so.

"Generally I detected a cavalier attitude towards governance," the report states.

It adds that the decision to wind up the company was "inevitable and probably long overdue".

O'Sullivan interviewed a number of board members and four employees before finalising his report.

The report gives significant attention to what is described as "extremely damaging" media leaks. O'Sullivan said "substantial leaks" were made to some journalists. However, he did not identify the source of the alleged leaks.

Taxpayers forked out in excess of €10,000 for the report to be carried out.

Sunday Independent

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