New Templemore claims ‘contradict’ Nóirín O’Sullivan testimony
No garda benefited personally from financial irregularities, internal audit unit chief says
Niall Kelly, civilian head of the Garda’s internal audit unit, told the PAC there had been “probably waste of public funds” but there was no personal gain by members of the force.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was made aware of financial irregularities at the force’s training college in Templemore earlier than she has acknowledged, the Public Accounts Committee has heard.
The claims were made during eight hours of testimony from six of the Garda’s civilian officers during a hearing into the mismanagement of money at the college.
Ms O’Sullivan had previously told the committee that she was first made aware of the issues at the college over a brief cup of tea on July 27th, 2015.
However, the Garda’s head of legal affairs, Ken Ruane, told the committee he met the head of human resources, John Barrett on June 30th, 2015, and was told issues relating to the college had been reported to the Garda’s chief administration officer who passed them on to Ms O’Sullivan.
He said there were notes to prove that his concerns and advice were passed to Ms O’Sullivan and a deputy commissioner. “I certainly felt it was a significant and serious issue,” he said.
Ms O’Sullivan had also told the members that she acted promptly after discovering the difficulties and established a working group to examine the issues on July 28th, 2015. However, the committee was told the working group was not set up by Ms O’Sullivan and was in operation from July 2nd, 2015.
The committee also heard Mr Barrett and Niall Kelly, the Garda’s head of internal audit, both state that they did not have full confidence in every member of the Garda’s senior management.
The evidence before the committee centred on when the civilian management figures became aware of the financial and accounting practices in Templemore and how they acted on receipt of the information.
Niall Kelly confirmed there were two audits into controls of cash in the Templemore college restaurant, shop, bar and vending machines, and current banking arrangements, and into the use of EU funds by the force going back to 1998.
He was appointed to conduct an internal audit in March 2016 and told the committee he should have acted sooner when he began to learn of the issues.
His audit, published earlier this year, exposed how the college had been renting out land that it did not own, running 50 bank accounts and using public money to fit out privately owned shops.
He insisted this was a case of incompetence by senior members of the Garda rather than wilful neglect. “In fact you could sympathise with them. They were put into these jobs, they hadn’t much training for it, they muddled through as best they could but that wasn’t adequate.” He said he had not uncovered any evidence of members benefiting individually from such financial mismanagement. He refused to say the practices were illegal but said they were contrary to law.