Tuesday 12 December 2017

Garda chief's lack of action criticised in PAC report

Watchdog to find Commissioner did not show 'determination' to deal with Templemore crisis

Under fire: Noirin O'Sullivan faces criticism in report Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Under fire: Noirin O'Sullivan faces criticism in report Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The Dail's public spending watchdog will find Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan showed a lack of "determination" to adequately deal with the gross mismanagement of State funding at the Garda Training College in Templemore, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The finding will renew political pressure on the under-fire Garda chief who has been at the centre of several controversies since she took office.

However, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on the Garda College scandal will not accuse Ms O'Sullivan of any wrongdoing. Senior government sources also indicated this weekend that the Cabinet currently has no intention of removing the Commissioner from office.

The final PAC report could also make serious findings against gardai for failing to provide the committee with the information it has sought. Gardai have until next week to hand over information concerning the scandal-hit training college or the committee will include damning criticisms in its report.

"When the PAC asks questions of public bodies we expect answers. It might take time but we tend to get the best answer they can provide," a committee member said. "We are not getting the quality of cooperation from the Gardai that would be expected by the PAC," the source added.

Central to the Templemore report by the committee, chaired by Fianna Fail's Sean Fleming, will be a finding of a perceived lack of "determination" by the Commissioner to resolve the financial mismanagement issues at the training college since she first learned of them in July 2015.

Some members of the committee would like the final wording on Ms O'Sullivan's handling of the scandal to be stronger but they are legally restricted in what they can report. The report will be published in two weeks' time.

Ms O'Sullivan was criticised throughout the PAC hearings for failing to promptly alert the Department of Justice and the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) to the potential misuse of public funds by gardai running the Garda College.

"She knew about this since July 2015 and she still hasn't brought it to a conclusion," a source said. "No matter what way you look at it, it shows she showed a lack of determination to resolve this."

In October last year, the Sunday Independent first revealed serious concerns about the management of bank accounts linked to the training college and a slush fund used to pay for meals and entertainment.

Since the controversy was first revealed, the PAC has carried out an extensive investigation into the operation of accounts and companies associated with the college.

Evidence by civilian members of the force raised serious concerns for TDs investigating the controversy. Ms O'Sullivan clashed with the Garda's head of human resources John Barrett over the length of time given to discuss the financial concerns at a crucial meeting.

Mr Barrett claimed last week he was subjected to a "whispering campaign" after blowing the whistle on the notorious Templemore slush fund.

Questions also surrounded when Ms O'Sullivan first became aware of the alleged garda slush fund in Templemore and why she delayed alerting the Department of Justice about financial issues which were identified in internal garda audits.

The Commissioner said she wanted to know the full facts before contacting the minister. A number of separate investigations are being carried out into the financial irregularities at the Garda College. The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) was asked to investigate the use of EU funding received by the college.

An internal audit raised concerns over how money destined for policing activities was used by the college. An EU watchdog also launched a probe into how the funding was used by Templemore College. The Garda Siochana Ombudsman (Gsoc) is also investigating whether any fraudulent activities were involved in the creation of more than 40 bank accounts linked to the college.

Sunday Independent

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