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PAC to question Horse Racing Ireland over 'unusual circumstances' behind the loss of €389,000

The money was in control of a cash-in-transit company when it stopped operating and went into liquidation.

Horse Racing Ireland could face questions from the PAC over the missing money.
Horse Racing Ireland could face questions from the PAC over the missing money.
Image: Brian Lawless

AN OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE is seeking an explanation from Horse Racing Ireland about how the group lost €389,000 when a cash-in-transit firm went bust.

The financial loss was revealed in the HRI’s 2019 financial records sent to the Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

The PAC has written to the equine sport organisation seeking an explanation about the incident.

Brian Stanley, Sinn Féin TD and chair of the committee, has called on HRI to explain the “unusual circumstances”.   

HRI has received almost €1 billion from the State in the past 20 years, Stanley said, including €67.2 million in 2019. “In return for such investment, we expect a very high level of risk management and control,” he said. 

HRI did not respond to a request for a comment. 

Stanley said that he and his colleagues have a lot of questions about how such a loss could happen in one incident. 

“It is explained in the financial statement and in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s notes that a disclosure has been made by HRI that an incident occurred where a financial loss was suffered in relation to cash-in-transit services whereby the service company went into liquidation whilst holding cash relating to HRI.”

“The situation and the explanation leaves the Committee with a lot of unanswered questions and some reservations regarding the HRI’s level of internal controls.”

The HRI carried out a review on the effectiveness of its internal controls in March 2020 after the incident, which Stanley said was welcome. 

“Despite this review, however, considering the substantial amount of public money that is injected into HRI each year, it is imperative that the Public Accounts Committee hears directly from HRI regarding this incident and that all safeguards are now put in place to minimise risk.”

It is not yet known whether HRI will appear before the PAC. 

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A spokeswoman for HRI said that they will engage fully with the PAC.

“Despite risk management controls being in place, in 2019, cash from Tote Ireland and from racecourses was lost when Horse Racing Ireland’s cash-in-transit service provider went into sudden liquidation. Tote Ireland was one of a number of companies that suffered economic loss during this time, in total €389,000.

“Once we receive correspondence, we will engage fully with the Public Accounts Committee to detail the risk controls in place before the incident; the legal remedies explored after the liquidation to secure the funds; and the procedures in place with our new cash-in-transit provider,” she said. 

HRI receives a significant amount of its funding from the Horse and Greyhound Fund which is based on a levy on off-course betting. HRI is audited annually by the Comptroller and Auditor General.  

The body said that the racing and breeding industry’s economic contribution has been valued at €1.84 billion per annum. It employs 29,000 people directly and indirectly.

Over the last twelve months racing has been permitted by Government to be held behind closed doors. 

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