Saturday 19 August 2017

Revealed: The 120 page dossier given to PAC by garda staff member about efforts to raise Templemore concerns

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan under renewed pressure

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: Gerry Mooney
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan is under renewed pressure after one of the force's most senior staff contradicted an account she gave to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Head of Human Resources John Barrett claims that he was warned to be “very careful” after raising concerns about financial discrepancies at Templemore Training college.

Mr Barrett alleges that he told a two hour meeting attended by Commissioner O’Sullivan that the force could face accusations of a “cover-up” unless it came clean on the discrepancies.

In a report to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), seen by Independent.ie, Mr Barrett said he received “considerable push back” after highlighting a series of financial discrepancies at the training college in Tipperary.

Mr Barrett’s minutes of a crucial meeting completely undermines the account given by the Commissioner at the PAC last week.

While sitting alongside Mr Barrett last week, Ms O’Sullivan claimed she found out about the financial issues during a “brief meeting” over a cup of tea.

In 120 page dossier given to the PAC last night, Mr Barrett gives extensive details of his efforts to raise concerns about the gross financial malpractice at the garda college in Templemore.

A number of audits of the training college found a complicated web of company accounts and raised serious concerns about the use of taxpayer’s money by gardaí.

This includes the transfer of €100,000 to the garda boat club. Concerns were also raised about a €125,000 fund used by gardaí to pay for expensive meals in local restaurants and retirement gifts for senior officers.

In his report to the PAC, Mr Barrett said was left “somewhat complexed” following the meeting after he attempted to raise his concerns about the disappearance of €1.7m from the college’s accounts.

“I received considerable push back when I referred to the loss of all books of account prior to a date which coincided with the retirement of a restaurant manager. I was counselled by all others in attendance that ‘I needed to be very careful’ in making such unproven assertions and connections,” the notes state.

“The commissioner... concluded ‘there was no evidence of misappropriation,’”

Mr Barrett describes how a senior officer, who he identified as Superintendent Matt Nyland, advised him he “should not get involved in the resolution of these matters” as he was a HR executive director.

“I expressed my deeply held reservations about his approach and why I was clear that I could not and would not close my eyes, as a senior civil servant to this malpractice which I described as being unacceptable to the organisation and those staff members now in the middle of the maladministration,” he said.

Supt Nyland told Mr Barrett, the HR boss said, that it was “up to others” to address the Templemore financial problems.

“I indicated that I was troubled by his suggested approach, though I understood the cultural warning, and concern for my personal wellbeing that might be inherent in his suggestion,” Mr Barrett said.

The HR director describes Supt Nyland’s approach as “classically old school”.

PAC member and Labour Party TD Alan Kelly said the report raises huge questions for the Commissioner.

In a statement to Independent.ie, a garda spokesperson said the issues were addressed last week.

"In particular, the Commissioner said at the press briefing that Mr Barrett had done the right thing in bringing forward issues of concern and that a working group was quickly established to review those concerns and how they could be addressed.

"Since then a series of measures have been introduced and are in the process of being introduced. The audit process into Garda College is also continuing.

As the Commissioner noted on Friday, the Head of the Garda Internal Audit Service has given assurances that the unacceptable financial practices in the Garda College could not happen now."

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