Fraud squad investigation into Garda medical fund
Probe into medical insurance scheme is a 'criminal investigation' - PAC told
The Garda fraud squad is now conducting a criminal investigation into the force's own medical insurance scheme, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
The investigation comes after this newspaper revealed last August how concerns had been raised about alleged over claiming of expenses by members of the St Paul's Medical Aid Society.
The Society is the body which handles health insurance for force members and receives €124,000 from the Garda Siochana every year.
The matter had come to the attention of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which had demanded answers from Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan.
In new correspondence with the PAC, Commissioner O'Sullivan's office confirmed: "This matter is currently the subject of a criminal investigation which is being headed up by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation."
"In addition the matter was notified to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to determine the admissibility of the matters outlined in Mr Keane's correspondence; a determination is still awaited from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission," the correspondence added.
The management committee of the Society met last Thursday to be appraised by secretary Owen Connell that the fraud investigation was ongoing.
"Prior to this, neither I, nor my colleagues on the Committee, were aware of any such investigation," Mr Connell said in a circular to members.
"The Management Committee wants to assure you, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that no criminality or wrongdoing of any kind has taken place in respect of the running of the Society's affairs either currently or at any time since its establishment," he wrote.
"Furthermore, the Management Committee wish to reassure you that in the fullness of time, this complaint will be found to be without any merit or foundation whatsoever," he added.
The investigation was launched after complaints were made by management committee member, Mr Michael (Mick) Keane.
Mr Connell sought to assure members that they will be kept fully informed in respect of the running of the Society's affairs. "It is also of critical importance that confidence is maintained in respect of the various people and organisations with whom the Society interacts, in the course of the day to day business of the Society," he said.
The Sunday Independent previously revealed how PAC had written to Commissioner O'Sullivan over the awarding of €124,000 to its Medical Aid Society each year.
The queries have been raised after Mr Keane, obtained a High Court injunction on an ex parte basis (where one side only appears in court) to stop the commissioner from filling a senior post at the Society, over concerns he had as to how it was being run.
Mr Keane alleged that expenditure on "committee expenses" of €152,297 in 2012 and 2013 by his fellow committee members was excessive.
The Society sought Mr Keane to refund it €16,000 in legal costs it was forced to incur on foot of his injunction.
Sources at St Paul's insisted that there is absolutely no case to answer, saying it is run to the highest standards.
St Paul's Garda Medical Aid Society provides for the payment of mortality and other benefits in the case of long-term illness.