Audit reveals poor financial management at Garda College

Switching of funds between accounts created transparency issues, report says

Publication of audit comes during a period when the Garda faces criticism over other serious shortcomings. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Publication of audit comes during a period when the Garda faces criticism over other serious shortcomings. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Poor book-keeping and issues with unrecorded spending were uncovered during an internal audit of the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

The report by the force’s audit department notes that concerns over financial management at the college were raised as far back as 2008 and says it can provide “no reassurance” of the adequacy of the internal management and systems that control the college’s finances.

The audit identified a total of 50 bank accounts associated with the college and said it found it difficult to track the transfer of money between them.

“The complex switching of funds between accounts has resulted in a non-transparent system of accounting,” it says.

Some of the highlighted issues arose nine years ago but steps were not taken to resolve them subsequently, the audit says. This coincided with the recession and a moratorium on Garda recruits.

Irregular nature

While no evidence of any personal wrongdoing was uncovered, the audit also highlights the irregular nature of how the college restaurant was set up, as well as a limited company which had charge of land associated with the college, including its golf course.

The report recommends that this landholding company, Sportsfield Co Limited, should be dissolved and its assets transferred to the Office of Public Works or An Garda Síochána.

It also questions whether gardaí who were public servants should have been acting as directors. It said that the directors should be asked to make disclosures under the Ethics in Public Office Act.

The unusual nature of the funding and transfer of funds from Sportsfield, the restaurant and the bar are disclosed by the report. It notes that €100,000 was transferred from Sportsfield to the Garda Boat Club, a private sports club. At the time the president of the boat club was a deputy commissioner who stated the “assistance given by the Garda College to the boat club was given for the right reasons”.

Lack of funds

A farm near Templemore was acquired by the Garda College in 2007 with a view to establishing it as a tactical training centre. However, a lack of funds prevented it from being developed. In the interim the land was leased yielding €124,903, which was lodged to the Garda Restaurant account.

This was in contravention of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as the OPW owned the land. The money accrued was spent on a wide range of items including entertainment, presentations, retirement presents, the boat club, insurance for sports grounds, as well as materials for graduations.

In relation to the college bar, the audit service notes no audits had been completed from 2010 onwards. In a conversation with the auditor for 2009, who raised an issue over “cash records”, it was noted that there was poor management and record-keeping as well as inadequate stock control.

The audit also discloses that more than €400,000 was transferred from the bar to the restaurant to keep it going when the student numbers were low.

The Garda College is an accredited third-level college providing training for recruits, but also degrees and post-graduate degrees for gardaí and for other policing professionals.

There are 271 staff in the college including some 150 members of the force. The expenditure of the college between 2009 and 2016 was €112 million.