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Saturday 21 October 2017

O'Sullivan under pressure to call in Central Bank and Revenue over 'slush fund'

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: PA
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: PA

Niall O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan is facing demands to call in both the Central Bank and the Revenue Commissioners in order to probe the notorious Templemore 'slush fund'.

In an explosive dossier sent to the Dáil's spending watchdog, one of the most senior civilians in the force claimed there exists 50 bank accounts linked to the training college.

Head of human resources John Barrett claimed there is "particular concern" about the flow of EU cash to St Raphael's Credit Union in Cabra.

The Irish Independent can reveal the Garda watchdog, GSOC, has now launched an investigation into whether fraud took place involving a "myriad" of bank and credit union accounts.

Letter

And the controversy deepened last night after the PAC was forwarded a letter that former chairman of the Garda audit committee Michael Howard sent to Ms O'Sullivan.

The letter, seen by this newspaper, criticised the Garda finance director Michael Culhane for his attack on the force's audit boss Niall Kelly.

Mr Howard referred to a previous letter sent by Mr Culhane to Mr Kelly which claimed his interim report on Templemore was "unprofessional, misleading and mischievous".

Mr Howard told Commissioner O'Sullivan he felt he was obliged to write to her in order to resolve the row and to "protect the future independence of the internal audit function".

During a recent PAC meeting, Mr Culhane withdrew the allegations against Mr Kelly.

Mr Barrett's dossier claims that he was subjected to a "whispering campaign" after blowing the whistle on the notorious Templemore 'slush fund'.

Mr Barrett quoted the book 'Lies in a Mirror' by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, specifically citing the chapter 'Dynamic of Evil', which argues that "deceit is the primary instrument for doing evil".

He adds that "truth and accountability must be found to have a genuine value" in the force.

Despite the seriousness of the claims, the dossier is unlikely to form part of the PAC's final report.

Committee chairman Seán Fleming said "there's a lot of very good information in Mr Barrett's correspondence".

But he added: "A lot of it is his personal opinion which we haven't fully tested. There's a lot of remarks about other people which we haven't tested."

Mr Fleming said that for this reason he doesn't think the contents of Mr Barrett's dossier can be included.

Meanwhile, at yesterday's PAC meeting Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane criticised the delivery by gardaí of requested documents to the PAC "at the 11th hour" as it tries to finish its report.

Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry said: "As far as I'm concerned there's wilful delay on the part of gardaí. We're being drip-fed information on very simple questions."

Report

Mr Fleming said it will be noted in the final report if TDs find that the PAC "didn't receive the full level of cooperation we would have expected".

He also told members that the PAC has been informed that the Garda report on how almost a million bogus breath tests were recorded won't be finished in time for Ms O'Sullivan's appearance at the committee next week. He said this was "unsatisfactory", while Mr Cullinane claimed it was "very convenient".

Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan said the PAC must seek an explanation for why the report wasn't ready.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy raised suspicion that the report won't be finished until the August bank holiday, adding that it's "a great weekend to bury things".

Q & A: Templemore slush fund

Why are we talking about Templemore?

Garda auditors last year uncovered serious mismanagement of public funds at the training college. The matter is now being probed by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). There is suspicion of fraud in relation to one bank account that got funds from the college.

What sort of issues were uncovered?

A complex web of bank accounts linked to the laundry services at the college was used to pay staff loans, as well as to fund bonuses, entertainment and sporting expenses. It's also suspected that cash from the EU - channelled to a bank account in Cabra - was used to fund entertainment for gardaí.

Both the Garda watchdog GSOC and the EU anti-fraud agency are investigating.

A series of documents submitted to the spending watchdog have made a series of extraordinary claims, including that gardaí would be led away "in handcuffs" as a result of the financial irregularities.

So another slush fund - is that the end of the controversy?

Far from it. Over the course of the past two months, the most senior civilians within the force have claimed they were stifled in their efforts to address the alleged fraud.

Some of the officers have contradicted the evidence given by the Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O'Sullivan, particularly her claims she first found out about the slush fund in July 2015.

It's also emerged senior civilians wanted the allegations sent to the Government for further investigation.

What's happening next?

The PAC aims to complete its report by the summer recess.

It's inevitable that Garda management will come out very badly.

Irish Independent

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