Friday 15 December 2017

Garda legal chief disputes O'Sullivan evidence to PAC on training college

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan Picture: Tom Burke
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan Picture: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A senior Garda official has disputed evidence given to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan in relation to the controversy over the finances at Templemore Training College.

Ken Ruane, the force's head of legal affairs, has said he "cannot agree" with remarks Ms O'Sullivan made to TDs last week about the role of a working group set up to deal with issues at Templemore in informing other State agencies of the issues there.

The latest contradiction between Ms O'Sullivan and her officials came in a letter sent by Mr Ruane to the PAC.

TDs have previously heard differing versions over when Ms O'Sullivan first learned the details of concerns over finances at the college.

In his letter, Mr Ruane disputes a section of Ms O'Sullivan's evidence to the PAC last week. Her remarks were in response to questions from Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane over why she didn't inform State spending watchdog the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) of issues at Templemore as soon as she learned of concerns over finances there.

Ms O'Sullivan has insisted that she first learned the detail of the issues at the college at a meeting on July 27, 2015, and that she immediately set up a working group to deal with the concerns there.

The C&AG was not told about Templemore until August 2016.

During last week's appearance at the PAC, Ms O'Sullivan said: "The fact is this [working] group was established and it was to go through the process of informing all the relevant parties, keeping the Department [of Justice] and everyone else informed of that.

"I entrusted the job, and the sequence with which that was done, to the group as it was established. It is my understanding that it is accepted practice that the Accounting Officer cannot have oversight and responsibility for absolutely everything."

In his letter, Mr Ruane quoted this section of Ms O'Sullivan's evidence.

He wrote: "In my personal capacity as an individual who was asked to be a member of this group, I do not accept and cannot agree with the statement made above by the Commissioner in the context of the process of 'informing all the relevant parties'."

Last night, a Garda spokesman said: "We cannot comment on any matter that may be subject to examination by the PAC", when asked about the contradiction between the pair.

Ms O'Sullivan last week told TDs that "complex issues had been identified in respect of the college" and she wanted more information before informing the C&AG. She said: "I was not aware of precisely what had been done and what the precise state of all of those issues was.

"If I knew then what I know now, having completed all of that work, of course I would have contacted the Comptroller and Auditor General."

The PAC is examining an interim report by the Garda internal audit unit that found financial irregularities at the college. Members will meet in private session tomorrow to discuss a draft of their Templemore report.

Irish Independent

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