Wednesday 22 November 2017

O'Sullivan contradicted again on Templemore controversy

Deputy Gda Commissioner Donal O Cualain; Barry McGee of the Garda Finance Unit; Asst Cmmr Anne-Marie McMahon; Chief Supt Margaret Nugent; Supt Pat McCabe; Garda chief administrative officer Joe Nugent arrive for the PAC hearing. Photo: Tom Burke
Deputy Gda Commissioner Donal O Cualain; Barry McGee of the Garda Finance Unit; Asst Cmmr Anne-Marie McMahon; Chief Supt Margaret Nugent; Supt Pat McCabe; Garda chief administrative officer Joe Nugent arrive for the PAC hearing. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan's account of when she first learned of concerns about finances at the Templemore Training College have been contradicted yet again.

The Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has been told she was informed of issues at the college weeks earlier than she previously told TDs she learned of problems there.

Former Garda chief administrative officer Cyril Dunne said he told Ms O'Sullivan about issues at Templemore in the first week of July 2015.

Ms O'Sullivan previously said she had been made aware of the matter at a brief meeting on July 27, and that she had taken prompt action to respond.

Two weeks ago, other senior civilian officials gave evidence suggesting Ms O'Sullivan was informed of the issues at the Training College at the end of June 2015.

Mr Dunne told the PAC he told Ms O'Sullivan about issues identified at Templemore by the Garda head of human resources John Barrett "round about the first week in July".

He said he told her at the time he needed to get more information and that he would brief her when he had more detail. He said she was happy with that approach.

Labour TD Alan Kelly said Mr Dunne's account of the timeline was "a direct contradiction" of what previous witnesses told the PAC.

The committee is probing an interim report on Templemore carried out by the Garda Internal Audit Unit, which found a series of financial irregularities including more than 40 bank accounts. Some were used for purposes other than those for which they were intended, including on entertainment and buying gifts.

Mr Dunne was criticised by TDs for not reading this report before his PAC appearance, with Sinn Féin's David Cullinane saying this was "unacceptable".

Mr Dunne said that he had been provided with extracts that were relevant to him.

TDs also quizzed accountant Barry McGee from the Garda finance directorate about a report he produced in 2008 which highlighted concerns over finances at Templemore.

Mr Kelly pointed out that several years passed during which there was no action on the issues it raised and asked if Mr McGee didn't feel obliged to inform the internal auditor or the State watchdog Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG).

Mr McGee said the report was sent to his superiors, but indicated that not taking it further may have been "a failing on my behalf".

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald asked him about an email he sent to Mr Barrett in 2015. She read the email where Mr McGee registered his concern about Templemore and warned of the "potential reputational risk" to the Garda organisation. In the email he asked "the question is how to solve this quietly without risking exposure".

Mr McGee said that he was "sending on an opinion" and the remark didn't "represent a strategy". Ms McDonald put to him that he had "figured out the game here was to deal with this quietly".

Mr McGee said he disagreed and that he regretted the statement in the email and would retract it, adding that it was an "incorrect opinion".

He denied that anyone in management had told him the matter should be kept quiet.

Irish Independent

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