ODCE had no IT expert to process electronic evidence

Delay in filling IT post hampered efforts to analyse large amounts of seized data

Former minister for jobs  Richard Bruton: had said that filling the IT post at the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement was of ‘priority importance’. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Former minister for jobs Richard Bruton: had said that filling the IT post at the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement was of ‘priority importance’. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) warned that it was being “compromised” on procurement laws because it did not have the capacity to analyse large amounts of electronic evidence.

The ODCE told the Department of Jobs that it did not have the in-house capacity to deal with huge amounts of data that had been seized as part of its investigations.

The corporate enforcement office had first asked for a computer expert to be hired in 2014 but the appointment did not take place until over two years later.

At one stage, even though it had been listed as a “priority” appointment, it was skipped and a potentially suitable candidate was assigned elsewhere in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

In internal departmental emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, two senior civil servants raised major concerns last summer over why it had taken so long to fill the job.

One message said: “As you know, the sanction was received in October 2014. You will see from the letter that Minister [Richard] Bruton stated very clearly that he considered the ‘filling of these posts/vacancies to be of priority importance’.”

Serious difficulties

In response, one of their colleagues said the department was having serious difficulties in filling roles that required computer expertise.

The department had been in discussions with the ODCE about hiring a person with IT experience but, in the meantime, a “critical vacancy” had emerged in another section of the department and the candidate was placed there instead.

In September last year, an internal departmental email noted the ODCE still did not have an IT expert and looked for “urgent sanction” to make the appointment.

The memo said: “[Its] ability to progress investigations is hampered by the lack of in-house ICT expertise to analyse electronic data seized as part of its investigations.”

Later that month, further discussions took place saying that the appointment would need to be at a higher level to get the appropriate IT skills.

One internal email said: “The idea that somebody with such exceptional/scarce ICT skills in the private sector would take a HEO [higher executive officer] post in the Civil Service is not realistic.”

The records also show that the ODCE was also consistently raising issues over its lack of a computer expert.

‘In-house expertise’

In July 2016, head of enforcement Kevin Prendergast wrote: “Our ability to progress this [a case understood to be Anglo] and other investigations is regrettably hampered by the lack of in-house expertise to analyse the electronic data seized.”

The ODCE has said that resourcing issues form part of the report it submitted to Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald in the wake of the Anglo trial debacle.

Asked specifically about the procurement issues and the hiring of an IT expert, it said it had “no further comment to make”.

The Department of Jobs said in a statement: “The recruitment of specialists in the ODCE was delayed due to a number of factors including obtaining sanction for posts and competition in an improving labour market for specific skill sets.”

Queried about the procurement issues, it said: “That email highlighted that the lack of IT expertise in the ODCE may hamper the Office’s ability to comply fully with public procurement practices in certain circumstances.

“The Department is not aware of any instances in which the ODCE did not comply with public procurement guidelines. Further, an IT forensics specialist was recruited by the ODCE earlier this year.”