Saturday 22 July 2017

Garda training college financial issues down to 'incompetence'

Niall Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The head of the Garda's internal audit unit said that it appears financial irregularities at Templemore Training College are down to "incompetence".

However, Niall Kelly told the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) "ignorance of the law is not an excuse".

The interim report by Mr Kelly's internal audit unit showed the training college had a web of more than 40 bank accounts. Some were used for purposes other than those for which they were intended, including on entertainment and buying gifts.

Fianna Fáil TD Shane Cassells asked Mr Kelly if it was a case of the staff at the college not having skills in finance matters "rather than wilful misappropriation of funds".

Mr Kelly said: "I think on balance more incompetence than wilful neglect."

Mr Kelly said he could sympathise with gardaí working there, adding: "They muddled through as best they could but that was inadequate."

He said his probe into the training college is not complete and that he has started two new audits in recent weeks. One is looking at EU-funded projects and programmes relating to the college going back to 1998.

The second is on the current controls of cash in the college restaurant, shop, vending machines and the bar, as well as the current banking arrangements.

The Pac was told there may be more bank accounts associated with the college after Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan raised the issue. Garda Human Resources boss John Barrett said: "I believe there may be some that have not yet been fully audited by Mr Kelly."

Mr Kelly indicated the possibility of other bank accounts is being probed as part of his fresh audit into EU-funded projects.

The Pac was also told by the Garda head of legal affairs, Ken Ruane, that he was asked to change minutes he took at an August 2015 meeting of an internal steering group on Templemore.

Mr Ruane told TDs that former chief administration officer Cyril Dunne asked him to change them because there was an inappropriate level of detail in them. He was asked to change them to a style set out by the Department of Public Expenditure.

Mr Ruane said he'd do this but also retained his original notes which were provided to TDs. Labour TD Alan Kelly said this was "incredible" and he had never heard of a head of legal affairs being told minutes were "too detailed".

The civilian officials were asked if they have confidence in every member of Garda management.

HR boss John Barrett said he has "some reservations", while Niall Kelly said he "would concur", adding that there are "some questions".

Other officials did express confidence in Garda management. Mr Kelly later confirmed he has confidence in Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and in the Deputy Commissioner he reports to.

Irish Independent

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