Corporate watchdog’s ‘good work’ rewarded with extra €1m

Minister signals additional funds for specialist investigative staff such as forensic accountants.

The ODCE has about 40 staff. And last year it received an allocation of €5m from Minister for Business Heather Humphreys’ department. File photograph: Getty Images

The ODCE has about 40 staff. And last year it received an allocation of €5m from Minister for Business Heather Humphreys’ department. File photograph: Getty Images

 

The Government is to allocate an extra €1 million to the white collar crime watchdog, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), to pay for specialist investigative staff such as forensic accountants.

Minister for Business Heather Humphreyssaid the agency’s budget was being expanded, ahead of its conversion to a standalone statutory agency.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has previously said he wants to convert the ODCE into “the Irish FBI for white collar crime”.

The corporate watchdog – which is leading a major investigation into allegations of illegality at Independent News & Media – remains part of Ms Humphreys’ department. She legislation is in train to put it on a lone footing.

She said she did know when the legislation to put it on a statutory footing would be ready. When asked if its legal authority to conduct investigations may also be beefed up, as well as its resources, she replied: “We are looking at that.”

Opposition politicians, including Labour leader Brendan Howlin, have previously complained that senior investigative positions at the ODCE have remained unfulfilled. And that this is the case even while the office’s ability to conduct major investigations has been stretched.

The ODCE has about 40 staff. And last year it received an allocation of €5 million from Ms Humphreys’ department. According to its annual report, however, about €2 million of that allocation was unspent, similar to previous years.

The corporate watchdog said it did not spend its full allocation in 2017 because of delays recruiting specialist staff and lower than expected legal bills. If and when it is converted into a lone agency on a statutory footing, however, it will gain more extensive control over its finances.