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Monday 18 December 2017

Garda civilian officials 'don't know' if firms at college are tax compliant

Civilian staff – from left to right – John Barrett, head of HR; Ken Ruane, head of legal affairs; Michael Culhane, head of finance; and Joseph Nugent - CAO yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Civilian staff – from left to right – John Barrett, head of HR; Ken Ruane, head of legal affairs; Michael Culhane, head of finance; and Joseph Nugent - CAO yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Senior civilian officials in the Garda could not last night say if organisations linked to the controversial Training College at Templemore are tax compliant.

During an explosive meeting of the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee, TDs expressed utter disbelief that none of the officials could shed light on the issue.

The PAC is probing the finances at the Training College after concerns about serious irregularities emerged.

TDs have demanded more information about its tax affairs within 24 hours.

Fine Gael TD Peter Burke asked how many tax numbers are assigned to the Garda.

Chief administrative officer Joseph Nugent said there are five - the main tax number for An Garda Síochána, one for Sportsfield - a company linked to the Training College - and three more for the restaurant, bar and shop at Templemore. He said some of the entities like the bar have been wound up.

Mr Burke asked if all of them were tax compliant and Mr Nugent replied: "We're in discussions with the Revenue Commissioners at the moment."

He later said that the Garda are in discussions with Revenue about four or the five accounts.

Labour TD Alan Kelly described this as "frankly quite extraordinary".

Mr Nugent said it's his understanding that tax returns were up to date but couldn't say if there was any liabilities on them when pressed by Mr Burke, again saying it was subject to "discussions" with Revenue.

Mr Burke asked other officials if they knew if there were liabilities, starting with the head of the internal audit unit Niall Kelly. He said it was a question for Michael Culhane, the head of finance.

Mr Culhane said he's involved in tax for the Garda overall, not the organisations at the college. He suggested head of human resources John Barrett has responsibility for the college. Mr Barrett said: "I think that's nonsense" and said he thinks Mr Culhane is responsible.

PAC chairman Seán Fleming asked: "Who is the person in An Garda Síochána who is responsible to ensure tax compliance in relation to the activities at Templemore College?"

Mr Nugent said the problem was the organisations there "were not operating as if they were Garda entities".

He said directors of Sportsfield, which includes an assistant Garda Commissioner, are responsible for that company and the restaurant manager did the tax returns there.

Mr Nugent promised to come back with more information in the next 24 hours and said that arrangements at the college were "peculiar" and this was "at the heart of the issue".

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said not being able to be sure about Revenue and compliance "absolutely beggars belief".

Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry said it is a "riddle wrapped up in an enigma" in terms of who's responsible for what.

Questions were also raised at the meeting about the timeline of when Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan became aware of issues at the Training College.

The PAC previously heard that it was on July 27, 2015, and she said she then took prompt action to establish a working group to look into the matter.

It was claimed last night that such a group had already been established and had met on July 2.

TDs were told that former Garda chief administrative officer (CAO) Cyril Dunne had told Mr Barrett that the Commissioner was told about Templemore on June 30. Garda head of legal affairs Ken Ruane said he met Mr Barrett that day and Mr Barrett told him the then-CAO had informed the Commissioner.

Mr Barrett said that's what Mr Dunne told him, but he said he didn't know the extent of Ms O'Sullivan's knowledge about Templemore at the time.

Irish Independent

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