Suspect arrested as gardaí allege ‘corrupt practices’ at statutory body

Issues at Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board were raised officially last year

The suspect, who is in his 50s, was arrested on Thursday by members of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau. Photograph:  Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

The suspect, who is in his 50s, was arrested on Thursday by members of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

Gardaí investigating alleged “corrupt practices” at the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (ETB) have arrested a suspect for questioning.

Garda Headquarters issued a statement confirming it had arrested a man as part of an investigation into alleged “corrupt practices at an office of a statutory body”. While it did not identify the statutory body under investigation, The Irish Times has learned it is the Kildare and Wicklow ETB.

The suspect, who is in his 50s, was arrested on Thursday by members of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB).

“The arrest operation was conducted as part of Operation Lakefront by detectives attached to the Anti-Corruption Unit, GNECB, in Co Kildare this morning,” the Garda statement said.

“The man was arrested for offences contrary to the Prevention of Corruption Acts and was conveyed to Leixlip Garda station, where he is currently detained under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984. Investigations are ongoing.”

Another organisation

The man arrested was never a direct employee of Kildare and Wicklow ETB but he worked for another organisation that had a relationship with the board.

A litany of issues about the Kildare and Wicklow ETB were raised in a Department of Education investigation and a Comptroller and Auditor General report last year.

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 Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, which commenced an investigation.

‘Very unusual’

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy last year 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.

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