ONE in five motorists escapes penalty points because of "significant weaknesses" in the system, a damning report has warned.
And some drivers have had points wiped on 10 separate occasions
Excuses given – and accepted – for penalties being dismissed included being worried about livestock being attacked by bees, being late for a swimming lesson and a broken speedometer.
A report by Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) Seamus McCarthy found points are routinely wiped by gardai for offences committed in other districts, notices are going missing, summonses are not being served and there is poor record-keeping.
Mr McCarthy said that despite weaknesses being identified in three reports since 2000, gardai must "urgently" address problems to "ensure fairness and continued public confidence" in the system.
The damning findings come in the annual report of the state watchdog that examines spending in government departments and public bodies.
It is the first time that spending under the Fine Gael-Labour coalition has been subjected to such intense scrutiny, and reveals a litany of waste.
Examples include payments by the Central Statistics Office to a former employee of almost €300,000 after he finished working there.
Some €97m was incorrectly paid to social welfare recipients by the Department of Social Protection, up 5pc over 2011, and more than €3m was spent partly-building a mortuary that was later demolished as it posed a risk to the public.
The report also examines the penalty points system, which was rocked by controversy this year after it emerged that senior gardai were wiping penalty points from drivers' licences.
It says that despite three investigations by the C&AG in 2000, 2003 and 2007, there were concerns that cases had been terminated "without due cause".
The report says that up to one in five offenders avoids penalties and does not end up in court, because of weaknesses in how the system is operated.
"There is evidence that the policy on termination of cases is not consistent," it says. "The rates of termination in many districts are too high to be reflective of 'exceptional circumstances'."
The researchers examined garda databases for notices issued in 2011 and 2012 and said 850,000 road-traffic offences resulted in the issuing of fixed-charge notices.
They also found that:
* Some 42,700 notices were terminated in 2011 and 2012.
* 10pc of fine notices sent to the Garda Fixed Charge Processing Office were returned for clarification, but a third were not sent back, meaning no prosecution was recorded.
* Only 28pc of 20,000 penalty-point notices issued to companies were paid, resulting in a loss of €1.12m.
* Half the cases dealt with by summonses, because the fine was not paid within 84 days, were struck out because a summons had not been served.
* There were "no controls" to restrict gardai in terminating points in relation to cases outside their district or area or authority.
* Charges incurred in 38 garda districts were struck out in one station – Blanchardstown.
* There was no documentation to review in almost a quarter of sampled cases.
The garda press office said: "A new HQ directive which was issued to the force in August sets out very clear guidelines on the administration and implementation of the Fixed Charge Notice System within the force."
Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness said the C&AG report raised questions about how public money was being spent.
"The figures for those who are detected for motoring offences and who basically get away with it is stark, and it is not fair on those who pay their fines and take their penalty points if others are getting away with it because summonses are not being followed up on," he said.