Ninth arrest in Garda inquiry into Kildare, Wicklow eduation boards

Detectives investigating allegations of corrupt practices detain man in 50s

Gardaí investigating allegations of corrupt practices at the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (ETB) have made their ninth arrest.

The latest person held for questioning is a man in his 50s who was arrested on Friday morning.

The man was arrested by detectives from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and was being questioned "as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged corrupt practices at statutory body".

"The man is currently detained under the provisions of Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act at Naas Garda station. He can be held for up to seven days," Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, said of the latest development in the long-running inquiry.

Issues about the Kildare and Wicklow ETB were raised in a Department of Education investigation and a Comptroller and Auditor General report in 2019. The audit found the ETB repeatedly broke public contract rules and indulged in “excessive” spending on five-star hotels.

Its then chief executive, Seán Ashe, also failed to declare ties to family members with interests in two companies that received contracts from the ETB, the audit found. The report was referred to the GNECB which commenced an investigation.

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy in 2019 told a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee that concerns about Kildare and Wicklow ETB arose during a routine audit of the body's 2015 financial accounts.

The concerns led the State auditor to prepare a supplementary report into the financial issues, a move that would be “very unusual”, he told the committee.

When concerning financial practices were brought to the chair and vice-chair of the ETB’s board, Mr McCarthy said they were both “surprised and shocked” to learn the information.

In his opinion ETB boards were “heavily dependent” on the executives they were supposed to provide oversight to, and needed more “operational independence”.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times