EU opens inquiry on Templemore Garda college money

European Court of Auditors move follows complaints of misuse of EU funds

The Garda training college in Templemore, Co Tipperary. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The Garda training college in Templemore, Co Tipperary. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The European Court of Auditors has opened an internal investigation into the use of European Union funds at the Garda training college.

The court, which is based in Luxembourg, has initiated an inquiry into the use of European funding at the college in Templemore.

The Irish Times understands the court has asked its internal audit unit to investigate the allocation of funding by the EU to the Garda authorities.

The inquiry follows reports by The Irish Times that 5 per cent of the money from Cepol, an EU agency for law enforcement, may have been diverted to a bank account in Cabra and used for entertainment for gardaí.

The allegations were originally contained in an audit of spending at the training college conducted in 2008, and are also the subject of investigations by the head of the Garda internal audit unit, Niall Kelly.

The Irish Times understands such claims were later forwarded to the European court by a member of An Garda Síochána.

Possible irregularities

The court has since responded to that individual Garda stating that the report “indicates the possibility of irregularities of EU spending, or poor financial management”.

In correspondence with that Garda, the court said it had forwarded the submission “to our audit department responsible for this area”.

The court is now due “to analyse the information and, where appropriate, use it for planning future audit tasks”.

The same report has been forwarded to the European Anti-Fraud Office, the agency responsible for investigating “serious misconduct within the European institutions”.

While that agency has not formally accepted any responsibility for investigating the claims, it acknowledged reports of how Cepol funds had been diverted into the “laundry account” of the Garda training college.

The money given by Cepol had been designated for training courses.

Mr Kelly told the Public Accounts Committee last month he was investigating the allocation of that money as part of an audit of EU-funded projects – programmes going back to 1998.

An internal audit completed in 2008 showed money was being transferred from the Cepol bank account to the laundry account in the Garda college.

The money was then used to pay for the accommodation costs of delegates involved in the courses.

Mr Kelly’s audit reads: “It is difficult to ascertain the reason why these charges are being allocated and lodged to the laundry a/c. In certain circumstances these payments have been paid to the college restaurant initially and then paid subsequently to the laundry account. The financial regulatory practices governing this account are poor.

“Once monies are lodged to this account, the controls placed on the authorising process of expenditure through this account are lax.”

The audit recommends that the bank account for Cepol is reconciled and all surplus funds credited back to the Department of Justice.