The purchase of over €9,000 in luxury food like fillet steaks, prosciutto and chocolate in an Irish prison is being investigated, according to a report by the State's spending watchdog.
Buying high-value food for prison kitchens is against Irish Prison Service policy, but a Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) report on catering in prisons highlighted the spending in one unnamed facility.
The food is said to have been bought for cookery classes for prisoners, but the Irish Prison Service has not been definitive on what activity was taking place or if "there were official events catered for using some of the products listed".
The C&AG has examined the catering service for prisoner meals, staff mess committees and prison shops.
Overall the Irish Prison Service spent €8.2m on food for its prisoner population in 2019.
The cost of food per day for prisoners ranged from €4.54 per inmate in Wheatfield Prison to €7.27 per inmate in Portlaoise Prison.
The spending on luxury food was uncovered as part of the examination of the training in catering programme.
Meals in prison are prepared by prison staff and prisoners who are trained in food preparation.
The C&AG report says that in most prisons the type of food bought for home economics courses was similar to what was used to prepare prison meals.
It's not Prison Service policy that high-value food should be used in any prison.
The report says that in one prison products purchased included luxury items like "fillet steaks, rib roasts, boneless leg of lamb, prosciutto and expensive catering chocolate".
"The Governor of the prison concerned has now commenced an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the expenditure."
The cost of such items purchased in the prison came to €9,302 over 2018 and 2019 and they were reported to be "used to support the provision of cookery classes to prisoners".
Meanwhile, sales across all prison shops which sell confectionary, cigarettes, toiletries and other items were almost €7m in 2019.
Gross profit margins ranged from 21pc in Castlerea Prison to 8pc in Midlands Prison.
A review of items purchased by prison shops also identified a number of issues. Some items sold in the shops were not from approved suppliers.
This included "Xbox players and games".
The Prison Service said that the Xbox machines met specifications determined by the prisons concerned and the "normal communications capability" was disabled.
Sale prices for the products "are agreed locally".