Monday 23 April 2018

Revealed: The 15 questions now facing embattled Commissioner

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: INM
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: INM

Niall O’Connor

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has been given one week to answer 15 questions from TDs and senators about the breath test scandal.

Members of the Oireachtas Justice committee have demanded clarity surrounding the timeline of the garda audit into the bogus statistics, as well as whether further issues will emerge outside of the area of traffic.

In a draft document circulated to the committee today, seen by, it is stated that the Commissioner will be asked why Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was not informed of the discrepancies sooner.

The 15 questions being asked of Ms O’Sullivan are:

1. Why did the Gardaí not seek data from the Medical Bureau for either its southern or national audit in 2015 and 2016 (as they eventually did in February 2017) even though the Medical Bureau had informed the Gardaí in July 2014 of discrepancies identified in its data?

2. The Gardaí stated in their press statement of 23rd of March 2017 that:

“The 2016 review was unable to reconcile the PULSE data and our paper based breath test data – primarily due to significant gaps in the manually recorded breath test data.”

When did the Gardaí first become aware of this inability to reconcile the PULSE data and their paper based breath test data?

3. In their statement of 23rd of March 2017, the Gardaí stated that the IT system was upgraded in November 2016. In the timeline provided by the Gardaí in their statement to the Joint Committee this upgrade was identified as taking place on 4 December 2016. When did the IT upgrade commence and when was it in place?

4. It appears from the statements made by the Gardaí to the Joint Committee that efforts were only made to secure data from the Medical Bureau some “days before” this data was received on 24 February 2017. When did the Gardai first contact the Medical Bureau in February 2017 requesting the data it received from the bureau on 24 February 2017? How was this contact made?

5. Did the publication or impending publication of an article in the Irish Times on 20 February 2017 entitled “Garda breath test figures fail to add up” have any influence on the decision of the Gardaí to contact the Medical Bureau?   

6. Did the Gardaí intend to disclose publicly the results of its audits or inquiries into the discrepancies in the breath test data prior to the publication of the Irish Times article?

7. What prompted the press conference held by the Garda Commissioner on the 23rd of March? Was it prompted by the leak of various issues pertaining to the number of breathalyser tests conducted?

8. Following the letter of March 2016 in relation to mandatory alcohol checkpoints, the Garda investigation which took just four weeks found that there were no problems. How comprehensive was this review?   

9. What precisely is the procedure for the input, recording and publication of information and results of breathalyser tests? Following the initial input of data into Garda databases, can the figures be retroactively altered? Who would have access to this data at the various stages in the process?

10. Why was the Minister for Justice not aware of the issue with figures for breathalyser tests before the media? Why was the Minister not informed in advance about the press conference on the 23rd of March? Why was information about the discrepancies in the figures not shared with the Policing Authority?   

11. Can you provide full disclosure of any current audits or investigations ongoing into other systemic problems within the Gardaí? This should include any and all audits, even if they are only on a localised or regional level, or considered of minor significance.   

12. Are there, within your knowledge, any other potential issues – similar to the discrepancies in relation to breath testing figures – of which the Committee ought to be aware?

13. What methodology is used in audits and investigations, given the significant discrepancies in reported figures? Can you provide a copy of the procedures followed for these audits? Can you also provide a copy of reports of any and all such audits conducted in  the last decade?

14. Can the Commissioner confirm that no specific data exists for the years 2006-2011 in relation to figures for mandatory alcohol testing?   

15. How does mandatory drug testing of motorists operate in practice? Is the Commissioner confident that figures for these are accurate?

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