Commissioner urged to inquire into Garda HR manager in 2015

Call came after John Barrett raised concerns over Templemore accounts, PAC hears

 

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was urged to investigate the head of Garda human resources John Barrett after he raised concerns about the financial irregularities at Templemore Garda training college.

Documentation sent to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) from An Garda Síochána includes a letter sent to Ms O’Sullivan from the executive director of finance Michael Culhane on October 24th, 2015.

Mr Culhane said Mr Barrett had collected confidential information and sent it to his home address without consent. He alleged this was a breach of the Official Secrets Act and urged the commissioner to investigate his activities.

Mr Barrett’s intent might appear to be to cause damage to the force either through “unauthorised disclosure” or leaks to the media, Mr Culhane wrote.

The content of the correspondence to the commissioner made a number of allegations about Mr Barrett’s behaviour towards other members of staff.

Mr Culhane claimed it was the intention of Mr Barrett to undermine his professional achievement and damage An Garda Síochána.

Meeting

The chief financial officer alleged a meeting took place with Mr Barrett and the author of one of the audits into the college, Barry McGee, on October 21st, 2015. According to the files, Mr Culhane alleged Mr Barrett made a number of alarming and disturbing statements at the meeting.

Mr Barrett was claimed to have alluded to Mr McGee that his position was under threat if he did not co-operate with the head of human resources.

In his letter to Ms O’Sullivan, Mr Culhane added: “In taking this unusual action to report this matter to you, I am concerned that you should be aware of the very serious statements made by Mr Barrett and the implied threat of some unauthorised action on his part which will damage An Garda Síochána.”

Mr Barrett , who remains the head of human resources, had urged the commissioner in September 2015 to inform the Minister for Justice and the Comptroller and Auditor General of the concerns emerging at Templemore. This letter was sent a number of weeks later.

Mr Barrett is also at the centre of a dispute with Ms O’Sullivan over the length of a meeting at Templemore Garda college where the commissioner was informed of the financial mismanagement. Mr Barrett alleged it was a two-hour meeting and provided minutes, while Ms O’Sullivan said it was a brief conversation over a cup of tea.

Give evidence

The civilian member of the force will be one of seven asked to give evidence before the PAC next week. He will be invited in alongside head of legal affairs Ken Ruane, head of internal audit Niall Kelly, and former chief administrative officer Cyril Dunne to the committee next Wednesday.

Ms O’Sullivan will not be in attendance but it is expected she will be asked to appear before the committee later.

The correspondence sent to the committee includes further correspondence sent from Mr Culhane to Mr Kelly.

The documentation includes an allegation that offshore bank accounts existed in the college’s name as well as claims that a bank account in the name of the Garda laundry account was used for the payment of bonuses, loans to staff and the funding of entertainment and sporting expenses.

Members of the PAC on Thursday criticised the media for publishing the information.

Labour TD Alan Kelly, Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan and Sinn Féin TDs David Cullinane and Mary Lou McDonald said it was unfair newspapers had sight of the information before the committee had considered it. Members said an opinion was being formed ahead of any detailed examination of the correspondence.

The chairman of the committee Sean Fleming proposed writing or speaking to every member of PAC asking them not to leak to journalists.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald admitted the revelations surrounding Templemore were disturbing and required further explanation.