Senior gardaí tried to conceal irregularities, says head of audit

Garda auditor warns of culture in force that shuns normal standards of ‘democratic accountability’

Niall Kelly, head of the Garda’s internal audit unit, said there was a perception within the force problems should not be admitted to and kept away from public scrutiny. Photograph: Frank Miller

Niall Kelly, head of the Garda’s internal audit unit, said there was a perception within the force problems should not be admitted to and kept away from public scrutiny. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

A senior civilian in An Garda Síochána has alleged that senior figures in the force deliberately withheld information about financial irregularities at its Templemore training college.

The allegations are included in a statement sent by Niall Kelly, head of the Garda’s internal audit unit, ahead of an appearance before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday.

Mr Kelly alleges there were numerous attempts to interfere in his work and withhold information about alleged financial mismanagement at the college from his unit. He said there was a culture that “the newly appointed and very independent internal audit” should not be looking too critically into the Garda college in Templemore.

Mr Kelly was responsible for an audit of the college, released in March, which found Templemore had been renting out land it did not own, running 50 bank accounts and using public money to fit out privately owned shops.

In the correspondence sent to the committee, Mr Kelly said the issues at Templemore exposed long-standing culture and governance issues within An Garda Síochána.

Public scrutiny

He said there was a perception within the force that problems should not be admitted to, should be kept in-house and away from public scrutiny.

“There is also a culture that thinks An Garda Síochána is different from other public sector bodies and that the normal processes of financial procedures and transparent democratic accountability do not apply,” he said.

The Irish Times revealed last week how letters were sent from the Garda’s executive director of finance, Michael Culhane, to Mr Kelly a month before his audit was released.

Mr Culhane alleges Mr Kelly deliberately exaggerated the significance of his findings and had set himself up as the “judge, jury and executioner”. He said the internal audit unit would be denying all principles of natural justice if Mr Kelly released his report in March without making suggested amendments.

Mr Culhane claims Mr Kelly stated on numerous occasions that the depth of the problems at Templemore would lead to people being taken away in handcuffs. He also alleges the head of internal audit compared the situation at the Garda college to the financial mismanagement at charity Console.

Financial mismanagement

In his latest correspondence with the committee, Mr Kelly describes the letter as “totally unacceptable”. He alleges Mr Culhane has questioned his motives, his professional integrity and competence.

A series of documents issued to the committee last week showed senior gardaí were made aware of concerns of financial mismanagement in the college as far back as 2008. Despite instructions being issued to inform the internal audit unit, it was not informed until March of lasts year.

A working group within An Garda Síochána was established in the summer of 2015 to consider the issues but a direction was issued not to inform Mr Kelly.

He will be one of six civilians to appear before the committee on Wednesday as well as John Barrett, the Garda’s executive director of human resources; Mr Culhane; head of legal services Ken Ruane; chief administration officer Joseph Nugent; and former Garda Audit Committee chief Michael Howard.