Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan asks GSOC to investigate 'serious suspected financial fraud' at Templemore
GARDA Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has asked the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) to investigate the latest allegations about the force's Training College at Templemore.
The Irish Independent today revealed serious suspected financial fraud has been uncovered by auditors.
Ms O'Sullivan confirmed to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that she received a report from the Garda internal audit service yesterday.
It is understood that the suspected fraud involved large sums of EU funds intended for law enforcement instead being used for flights and entertainment for gardaí.
The probe has found that one of the bank accounts in question was linked to a senior officer in the force who has since retired.
Internal auditor Niall Kelly made Ms O'Sullivan aware of the matter at a meeting in Garda headquarters last Friday.
Mr Kelly is also understood to have recommended that Ms O'Sullivan refer the findings to the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) and Garda watchdog GSOC.
This morning Ms O'Sullivan told the PAC:
"I wish to advise the Chairman and the Committee that on Friday of last week the Head of the Garda Internal Audit Section provided with me a verbal briefing on concerns he had in relation to particular financial matters relating to activities in the Garda College.
"Following this meeting, I requested a written report from the Internal Audit Service to be provided on Monday. I reviewed the report yesterday and based on the information available the matter has now been referred to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission for investigation."
Ms O'Sullivan confirmed she has also informed the secretary general of the Department of Justice of the matter for the information of the minister.
Ms Sullivan indicated that there were a number of signatories to the bank account in Cabra, Dublin over the years that changed over time.
Under questioning from Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry, Ms O'Sullivan refused to name the most recent signatory saying she didn't think it would be fair amid the ongoing investigation.
"Due process and fairness to individuals has to take place," she said.
Labour TD Alan Kelly asked her for the individual's rank.
Ms O'Sullivan said they were a "retired senior officer" but would not give the rank.
She said this would be tantamount to identifying the individual.
Ms O'Sullivan was asked about the range of sums involved in the account by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy.
She replied that at its height it was "in the region of €90,000" and her understanding was the account - based in Cabra, Dublin - was opened in 1999 and closed in 2010.
The PAC is examining an interim report by the Garda internal audit unit which uncovered financial irregularities at the Training College.
The report found that the 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.
Ms O'Sullivan this morning said she stood by her account of when she first learned of concerns about the finances at the College.
She said this happened at a meeting in Templemore on July 27, 2015.
Other Garda officials have given different accounts to the PAC at previous meetings suggesting Ms O'Sullivan found out about the issues at the Training College up to a month earlier.
Mr MacSharry referred to previous Ms O'Sullivan's evidence to the committee that she was first told of the matter on July 2015 and asked her if it was still her position?
She replied that it is.
Ms O'Sullivan began her statement to TDs saying she wanted to update them on resolving the "unacceptable financial issues" in the Garda College found in the Interim Audit Repor.
"As you aware, these issues have their origin in the funding model set up for the Garda College several decades ago.
"These are complex and complicated financial and legal arrangements that in some cases require us to take expert advice to resolve and ensure that they cannot happen again.
"Notwithstanding this, we are determined to resolve them as quickly as possible as they clearly do not meet modern corporate governance or financial standards."
Ms O'Sullivan said that all of the recommendations of the interim audit report will be implemented and she added that the Gardaí are "happy" to provide periodic progress updates to the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG), the Department of Justice, the Policing Authority and the independent Garda Audit Committee.
She later said:
"I am also conscious that the Garda Internal Audit Section is continuing its audit of the Garda College and any further issues that may arise as that audit progresses, will be addressed and appropriate action taken by the Garda Executive."
Ms O'Sullivan denied suggestions that she referred the issue to GSOC to prevent the PAC probing the fraud allegations.
Both Mr McSharry and Ms Murphy suggesting the timing of the referral yesterday was "convenient".
Ms O'Sullivan insisted; "Under no circumstances was this matter referred to GSOC to keep it from the public view."