Friday 22 September 2017

Ex-Garda chief 'lost control' of penalty point row - PAC draft report

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan "lost control" of the penalty points controversy and placed the protection of the force ahead of ensuring whistleblower complaints were investigated properly, according to a new draft report.

The report by the Dail's spending watchdog has concluded that systemic weakness in the penalty points system saw 20pc of fines not being collected, at a cost of €6m a year.

A draft Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report, seen by the Irish Independent, is deeply critical of systemic failures within An Garda Siochana relating to the cancellation of penalty points by officers, which it said has "ultimately damaged the reputation" of the force.

The report also calls for the need for a "culture change" within the gardai, in order to restore the public's confidence in the force.

But in reference to Mr Callinan, who controversially decided to resign from his post on foot of the controversy earlier this year, the committee is deeply critical of his handling of the affair.

"In evidence, the then commissioner described the actions of the two whistleblowers as disgusting.

"The desire to protect the organisation was placed ahead of ensuring complaints were followed up on and...the Garda Commissioner lost control of the process once the issue appeared in the public domain," the committee report states.

Mr Callinan could not be contacted for comment last night.

The committee "notes with concern" that many of the systemic weaknesses have been known to authorities for many years. "A lot of money that could have been collected has been lost as a result," it states.

It says it was the actions of the whistleblowers that galvanised activity on the part of senior force management.

"More needs to be done to tackle those who are detected but who escape from paying a fine other than when they are cleared of charges by a court," the draft committee report states.

In relation to the loss of income, the committee will conclude while there are legitimate reasons for some of the "leakage", totalling €6m a year, the majority of it was caused by systemic weaknesses and this has led to a significant loss in income for the State.

The significant leakage, the draft report states, was caused by errors in data entry at detection stage, issues with unidentified drivers especially in respect of company cars, failure to serve summons and a failure to get licences endorsed.

In total, the 27-page report makes 13 findings and 12 recommendations which are needed to "restore the morale and confidence" of the public and of serving members of the force.

It is expected to be discussed when the committee meets today, and changes to the final report are possible.

The recommendations highlighted in the draft report says there is a need to review systems such as the confidential reporting system.

There is also a need to give greater protection to whistleblowers and a need to change internal review mechanisms.

The draft report is also critical of the manner in which speed cameras were outsourced, as rather than being an income generator for the State, it actually costs a net €11m a year to operate.

Irish Independent

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