Garda Commissioner says no crime has taken place over Templemore funds

An internal audit raised serious concerns over financial oversight

Garda Commissioner says no crime has taken place over Templemore funds

File photo of Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan | Image:

The Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan has described the practices uncovered relating to accounting and expenditure at the garda training college in Templemore as 'unacceptable'.

But Commissioner O'Sullivan says the problems go back as much as 40 years, and that so far paper trails have not been uncovered.

She is facing questions at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) about why when concerns were first raised in 2006, it took until last year for a full internal audit to be carried out.

The Commissioner admits gardaí have not yet fully worked out if criminal activity went on.

"What I've asked the people who conducted the audit to date is: 'Is there anybody either in the line management stream - so all the way from the Chief Administrative Officer Mr Barrett, all the way down, or Mr Kelly who conducted the audit report - is there anybody who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a crime has been committed at this point'?

"And what I'm informed is no.

"However, we haven't stopped there - I've asked an assistant commissioner to examine the content of the interim audit report".

A report published in March raised serious concerns over financial oversight at the college - including the use of public money for entertainment, gifts and for clubs and societies.

The report suggests that €100,000 was transferred from a college company to the private Garda Boat Club.

Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell claimed what happened was "embezzlement", but Commissioner O'Sullivan noted there was no evidence of illegality in the interim audit.

Deputy Farrell clarified: "The point I would make - and I looked up the definition [of embezzlement]... it doesn't necessarily infer certain things.

"[The definition] says 'misappropriation of funds placed in one's trust, or belonging to one's employer'. That's exactly what we're talking about."

Internal audit

The details - unearthed by an internal audit - were leaked in January, with Commissioner O'Sullivan claiming there was no criminality involved in the discrepancies and describing the irregularities as “legacy issues.”

However, Labour Party TD Alan Kelly - who is chairing today's meeting - warned earlier that there are many questions still to be answered.

"Simply put this behaviour was unacceptable," he said. "This audit was absolutely incredible in its nature and the way in which it has revealed certain behaviours."

“We need to look at who was on the audit committee; we need to look at what was the commissioner’s role; we need to look at also who was involved from An Garda Síochána in relation to overseeing this down through the years and particularly in recent times."

The Garda Internal Audit Section interim report examined financial procedures at the Templemore College between January 2009 and March 2016 – during which time around €112m of public funds was spent.

The report found that no financial controls existed on a number of the 48 bank accounts that were identified as being linked to the college.

It found that garda staff assigned to administrative roles had no training in, or experience of, administration - and had no knowledge of public financial procedures and governance codes.

The accountant responsible for the college bar was unable to verify cash records for certain functions that were held on the premises – while around 37% of the expenditure from a laundry and services account, “had nothing to do with laundry or services.”

Senior management

Deputy Kelly said senior management need to explain how they can stand over the irregularities and why they are only coming to light now.

The chair of the committee, Séan Fleming, said the audit "highlighted serious issues in relation to financial controls and mismanagement of funds."

He said it is important that an effective system of internal financial control is maintained within the force moving forward - adding that the committee will expect to hear what changes have been put in place since the report came to light.