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Saturday 19 October 2019

Gardai need extra €36m to pay wages this year

Tom Brady Security Editor

A MASSIVE shortfall in the garda budget this year will result in 400 members of the force not being paid if it is not sorted out.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan revealed yesterday that he needs an injection of €36m before the end of December to ensure that his force can "break even" financially.

His comments confirmed the disclosure in the Irish Independent last January of the budgetary crisis confronting the force.

Senior gardai had made it clear that the strength of the force would have to be slashed dramatically to make ends meet as a result of the shortfall.

But Justice Minister Alan Shatter at the time dismissed suggestions that the force was facing any financial crisis this year.

Flagged

However, the commissioner told the Dail Public Accounts Committee yesterday that the hole in the funding had been flagged, the Department of Justice was aware the force had been left short by €36m and officials in the Department of Public Expenditure had also been alerted to it.

Mr Callinan said he anticipated that the Government would have to approve a supplementary estimate later in the year to cater for the shortfall and allow the force to meet its financial commitments.

It is understood that the force was given enough money by the Government in 2013 to pay the wages of 13,000 gardai.

However, the current strength of the organisation stands at 13,400 gardai and the Government will now be obliged to pump extra cash into the budget to ensure the other 400 receive their monthly pay.

Senior gardai only became aware of the cuts in the pay allocation when the budgetary figures were studied by their financial section at the force's Phoenix Park headquarters.

During a meeting lasting more than four hours yesterday, Mr Callinan confirmed the shortfall in response to a question by committee chairman John McGuinness.

He also expressed the hope that the Government would sanction the start of a new recruitment campaign before the end of the year.

He reiterated the concerns he had first raised at another Dail committee last November that the size of the force should not be allowed to fall below this number.

All of the indications suggested this would happen unless recruitment was resumed.

And he warned the committee that if the strength dropped below 13,000 the force would not be able to provide the policing service it wanted to give to the community.

Mr Callinan had previously stated he would "love" to see the embargo on recruitment lifted because of the difficulties created by the two-year period to turn potential gardai into fully fledged members of the force.

The committee also heard that the garda authorities had reached a tax settlement with the Revenue Commissioners of €12.4m as a result of a dispute over non-taxed allowances paid to members.

He said the issue of non-taxed allowances had been determined through the conciliation and arbitration process, in which officials from the Department of Finance took part.

But the Revenue Commissioners argued that tax should be paid on the allowances after garda management had made a disclosure about the agreement.

A settlement of €12.4m had been reached for the three-year period up to 2012, he told Sean Fleming, who had wondered why the force had to hand over such a large sum in unpaid taxes to the Revenue.

Mr Callinan also informed Mr Fleming that a four-week waiting period for garda vetting could not be applied to all applicants until the unit was given further resources.

He said about 30pc of applications were dealt with in three to four weeks while the other 70pc could take up to 14 weeks.

Irish Independent

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