Gardaí in Templemore Garda College may have redirected European Union funding into a bank account in Dublin, it has emerged in fresh allegations.
Several sources have claimed that five per cent of the monies given by EU agency CEPOL were placed in an account in Cabra, Co Dublin and used for entertainment for gardaí. The monies given by CEPOL, a European Union agency for law enforcement, had been designated for training courses.
The head of the Garda internal audit unit Niall Kelly confirmed that he is conducting an investigation into the allocation of such monies as part of an audit of EU-funded projects-programmes going back to 1998.
The Irish Times has seen a copy of an internal audit completed in 2008, which showed monies were being transferred from the CEPOL bank account to the laundry account in Templemore Garda college.
The money was then used to pay for the accommodation costs of the delegates involved in the courses.
The 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.
The issue was first raised by Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday.
Ms Madigan told the committee it was her understanding that the monies were “being spent on non-core Garda issues, if one likes, and the moneys are not going where they should be going”.
She urged Mr Kelly to make his audit available to the committee as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the audit report from 2008 also states that the restaurant in the Garda college was operating as a private entity outside of An Garda Síochána.
It says the force is now exposed to the risk of non-compliance with financial regulatory process and breaches of public governance.
“The college restaurant is being used as a financing body as a source of funds to procure or develop certain aspects of the operations of the Garda college.
“This is not in adherence to correct public financial practice as it means major projects or expenditure can be processed without obtaining finance sanction or input from the finance directorate of an Garda Síochána.”
Three audits were carried out into Templemore Garda college but only one of them have been published.
Mr Kelly’s report in 2017 demonstrated the scale of the problem confirming the college was renting out land it did not own, operating more than 50 bank accounts and using State funds to fit out privately owned businesses.
The audit conducted in 2008, seen by The Irish Times, confirms these issues were known at that point.
The report says the restaurant was making payments to the boat club, the GAA club and the Sportsfield company. It says cheques were issues from the college administration account and receipted by the Garda college shop.
The Public Accounts Committee will receive further documentation today in connection with its tax compliance and other correspondence requested by members.
Meanwhile, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said he was very worried about the issues emerging at Templemore.
He insisted the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan retained his full confidence but then stressed the need for individual accountability in the public sector.
Mr Varadkar told Newstalk Radio problems are far too often blamed on a lack of resources or internal failures.
If elected Taoiseach, the Minister said he would demand individual accountability if investigations find failings.