Templemore charitable status bid was to ‘muddy things up’

Documentation shows exchanges between director of finance and Department of Justice

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan: failed to express full confidence in senior management of the Garda. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan: failed to express full confidence in senior management of the Garda. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A senior Garda official sought charitable status for Templemore Garda College from Revenue in an attempt to “muddy things up”, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee has been informed.

Documentation was sent to the committee showing exchanges between director of finance Michael Culhane and the Department of Justice in July 2010. The correspondence was delivered to the office of the Garda head of human resources John Barrett in an Oireachtas envelope on June 14th, and he forwarded it to the PAC.

It included a letter sent from Mr Culhane to the Garda division of the Department of Justice seeking advice on whether its annual subvention paid to the college could allow it to avail of charitable status.

In a further letter on July 5th, 2010, Mr Culhane wrote: “To muddy things up I have included charitable status for the college in the letter to Revenue dated 28th May but as you can see it was not included in their response.”

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said she unaware of the correspondence until she was presented with it at the committee meeting on Tuesday.

Ms O’Sullivan also sought to contact Mr Culhane to seek advice on the content of the letter but was unable to do so.

Secretary general of the Department of Justice Noel Waters also said he did not known the content of the correspondence but would be concerned if information was deliberately concealed from Revenue.

Openness and transparency

Chairwoman of the Policing Authority Josephine Feehily also outlined her concern about the language used in the letter. She said she spoke before about the importance of openness and transparency with Revenue.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry, who is a member of the committee, told The Irish Times the correspondence raised a number of serious concerns.

He said: “This requires an immediate response from the individuals concerned. I find it incredible that such language would be used and that an attempt would be made to hide information from Revenue.”

The Garda Commissioner faced seven hours of questioning from the committee members on Tuesday surrounding the financial irregularities uncovered at the Garda college in Templemore.

Ms O’Sullivan confirmed she received an interim report from the Garda’s head of internal audit, Niall Kelly, outlining potential criminal and fraudulent activity connected to a bank account in the name of An Garda Síochána.

The account was based in Cabra, Dublin, was open for 11 years and contained, at its peak, €90,000 of European funds.

A retired senior officer of the force was the most recent signatory on the account but the Garda Commissioner stressed the signatories had changed over time.

Ms O’Sullivan declined to reveal the identity of the people involved but has referred the allegations to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commissioner.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the European Anti-Fraud Office and the Policing Authority have also been made aware of the allegations, which date back to 1999.

Intense scrutiny

The Garda Commissioner also came under intense scrutiny regarding her knowledge of the irregularities at Templemore and when she became aware of the scale of the alleged financial mismanagement there.

She was criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General for failing to inform his office of the issues when she first learned of them in July 2015.

Ms O’Sullivan admitted she would have acted differently in hindsight but made the decision based on the partial information she was in receipt of.

Meanwhile, the Garda Commissioner failed to express full confidence in senior management of the Garda. Asked eight times by Labour TD Alan Kelly if each member had her support and confidence, Ms O’Sullivan declined to answer. She instead stated: “Well I have to work with the team that I have to get the very best out of them.” The Garda Commissioner added: “I have confidence in the collective ability of the team.”