Cavan council misses two deadlines for report on alleged funding misuse

Alleged misuse concerned payments for maintenance and engineering works

 Eoghan Murphy’s  Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has yet to receive the council’s reports. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Eoghan Murphy’s Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has yet to receive the council’s reports. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

 

Cavan County Council has missed two deadlines to produce a report to the Government on its internal investigation into allegations of financial impropriety.

The investigation, which began early last year, relates to allegations, made from within the council itself, regarding misuse of public funds. The alleged misuse concerned payments for maintenance and engineering works in the southern part of the county.

A council source has claimed that one company, a Cavan-based contractor, has returned to the council some €60,000 allegedly pre-paid to it for work that was not carried out. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

The source said a second contracting company which went into liquidation returned about €25,000 via the receiver. The money had allegedly been paid to it by the council for work that was not carried out.

Two deadlines flagged by the council to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government have passed without the production of a report – one in July 2017 and another at the end of last month.

The council had previously refused to confirm that it had any records related to the investigation and only did so last December when directed to by the Office of the Information Commissioner.

Investigation

The council has also declined to answer a number of questions put to it last month by The Irish Times.

In a reply, a spokeswoman said: “The records held by Cavan County Council in relation to this matter are part of an investigation which is ongoing. Disclosure of any records would be prejudicial to the effectiveness of this investigation.”

He stated that the investigation is being conducted in a thorough, robust and methodical manner

The allegation of impropriety was initially made internally and then became, in April 2017, a protected disclosure to the department. It is understood a second protected disclosure, from another council employee, has also been made more recently.

In May 2017, the department asked the Cavan county manager, Tommy Ryan, to investigate the allegations and in June, he confirmed an investigation was ongoing. “He stated that the investigation is being conducted in a thorough, robust and methodical manner, and it is expected that this investigation will be completed within the next few weeks,” the department said in a statement to The Irish Times.

The investigation was not completed within that time.

Early last month, the department said “a lengthy and detailed investigation is under way and we expect to receive a copy of the final report by end March”.

Concerned

The promised final report has yet to be received by the department.

The Irish Times first raised the investigation with the council in March 2017 but the council replied saying it was “not the practice of Cavan County Council to issue statements on issues of this nature”.

A subsequent Freedom of Information request was met with a similar refusal and also a statement that the council would not “confirm the existence or non-existence of the record(s) concerned”.

Last December, after the Office of the Information Commissioner overturned this refusal, the council confirmed it had 39 emails, letters and other documents relating to the allegations and investigation.

However, it refused to release them, claiming that disclosure would be prejudicial to the effectiveness of the ongoing investigation, would be unfair and unlawful and “could prejudice the investigation of possible offences”.

It also asserted “legal privilege” over correspondence between the council and its legal advisers.