Garda should have sought new IT tenders six years ago, PAC told

Audit finds multi-million euro prepayments made despite a lack of invoiced hours

Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin. File photograph: Collins

Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin. File photograph: Collins

 

An Garda Síochána should have sought tenders for a new IT services contract six years ago, acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin has told an Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Mr Ó Cualáin and other senior Garda representatives were appearing before the committee to discuss concerns over the management of an IT contract with global firm Accenture, for which it paid €26.5 million in 2016. The contract for IT services should have been re-tendered by 2014.

A Garda internal audit report last year raised concerns about multi-million euro prepayments made for IT services, despite a lack of verified invoiced hours.

The audit, which relates to the Garda’s 2016 financial statements, found that elements of the contract with Accenture were “not best practice” and in particular there was a lack of a paper trail over a key financial agreement between gardaí and the firm.

Mr Ó Cualáin told the committee the IT services contract began in 2009 and was “rolled over” but officially expired in 2014. At the time the contract was initially signed it had been the “perceived wisdom that it was better to go for one major contract than to break it up” he said.

He said the IT contract had now been broken up and tenders were being sought for five different aspects of IT services. While the 2009 Accenture contract should have ended in 2014, the procurement process for a new contract should have started in 2012, he said.

The head of Garda audit services Niall Kelly told the committee there was there was “very little actual documentation” in relation to the continuing IT contract, and while there was a paper trail it “wasn’t always adequate”.

However, he said Garda resources were such that there was no internal IT skills capacity to end the contract. “We were in a situation we had to keep the system going,” he said.

The audit had also found flaws with the verification of hours for some of the IT services paid for by the Garda. It found that, unlike other firms hired by gardaí, some contractors engaged through Accenture did not electronically record the hours they worked on behalf of the force.

Mr Kelly said the use of written time sheets was a “much weaker control” than “clocking on” and that the time sheets “weren’t properly signed off verified” in all cases.

Liam Kidd executive director of IT with the Garda said new IT staff should be in place by the end of the year.