Garda HR head says he was ‘isolated’ after Templemore claims

John Barrett claims he was urged to be ‘very careful’ after asking question about audits

Garda recruits at Templemore. John Barrett claims he was urged to be ‘very careful’ when he questioned why an internal audit team at the Garda college was not aware of previous audits conducted in 2008, 2010 or 2015. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Garda recruits at Templemore. John Barrett claims he was urged to be ‘very careful’ when he questioned why an internal audit team at the Garda college was not aware of previous audits conducted in 2008, 2010 or 2015. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

A senior civilian officer in An Garda Síochána says there have been tangible efforts made to isolate his office since he first raised concerns about financial irregularities at Templemore Garda College.

John Barrett, head of the Garda human resources, claims he was urged to be “very careful” when he questioned why an internal audit team, which was examining the issue last year, was not aware of previous audits conducted in 2008, 2010 or 2015.

Documentation from Mr Barrett has been distributed to members of the Public Accounts Committee.

It details Mr Barrett’s concerns about the financial practices at the Garda college and his attempts to make senior gardaí aware of his concerns.

Mr Barrett also describes how his professional influence within the organisation from a wide range of key decision areas has subsided since he began drawing attention to the irregularities.

Among the documents is correspondence between Mr Barrett and the head of the internal audit committee Niall Kelly in October 2016. Mr Kelly was tasked with compiling a report on the financial irregularities and his interim report has since been published.

It found evidence that money was being spent on gifts and entertainment. It also confirmed a large number of bank accounts including one for laundry, which was not being used for that purpose.

Audit committee

In correspondence, Mr Barrett points to the fact that requests for copies of previous audits in 2008 and 2010 were denied to the audit committee.

Denying Mr Kelly such information was a “bizarre course of action” that must have been supported by the most senior garda management, Mr Barrett alleges.

In the papers seen by The Irish Times, Mr Barrett also states the “furtive operations within the Garda college are known to exist for many years”.

“The fact that these complex activities have remained undisturbed and opaque for so long is a testimony to an essential aspect of the deep culture. The continued opacity of this activity, while yet remaining in plain view, is a powerful reflection of the degree to which those involved could rely upon protection from scrutiny, from consequence and from being held to account.”

Mr Barrett said participation and involvement in this maladministration did not provide any impediment to promotion.

Statement of approval

The civilian officer goes on to say the movement of gardaí to higher office was seen as a statement of approval of their actions.

“It says aloud and for all to hear that maladministration, the compromise of accounting rules, the infringement of Department of Justice, Department of Finance regulations is not important. It is no impediment to advancement.”

Those who chose to be transparent and change the current culture were marginalised and sidelined, Mr Barrett claims.

In his documentation dated July 22nd 2016, he said these calculated actions show that loyalty was more important than honesty.

A Garda spokesman said it had not had sight of Mr Barrett’s report but noted: “[Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan] said at the press briefing that Mr Barrett had done the right thing in bringing forward issues of concern and that a working group was quickly established to review those concerns and how they could be addressed. Since then a series of measures have been introduced and are in the process of being introduced. The audit process into Garda college is also continuing.”

Labour TD Alan Kelly said the revelations were damning and insisted the commissioner’s position was untenable.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted Ms O’Sullivan retained his full confidence.