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‘The work of the PAC is not finished’: Whistleblower to give evidence behind closed doors

The committee has decided, without a vote, to press ahead with plans to hear from serving garda sergeant this Thursday.

Image: An Garda Siochána via Facebook

Updated 11.08pm

THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS Committee (PAC) will hear from a garda whistleblower about alleged malpractice in the penalty points system in private session this Thursday.

TDs on the committee concluded a lengthy meeting at Leinster House this evening and reached agreement on hearing from a serving garda sergeant, Maurice McCabe, about allegations of alleged malpractice in the administration of the penalty points system this Thursday afternoon at 2pm.

Even though the hearing will be in private session, McCabe will be restricted in what he can say to TDs and will not be able to name names.

Last night, the Justice Minister Alan Shatter referred the controversy to the Garda Ombudsman leading some committee members to express the view that the PAC’s inquiry, based on the findings of a Comptroller and Auditor General’s report into penalty points, should be halted.

There were lengthy exchanges during a two-hour meeting with some non-government TDs arguing that the committee should continue it’s work irrespective of the pending investigation by the Ombudsman.

At one stage it looked likely that a rare vote would be forced to prevent the committee from bringing in McCabe, but it became apparent during a short break in proceedings that Labour TDs would vote to bring the whistleblower in.

Members were keen that a vote should not be held as it would be largely unprecedented in the history of the committee – the last and only vote that was held in the current committee’s lifetime was a failed attempted to elect independent TD Shane Ross as chair in 2011.

After the break in proceedings, TDs reached a consensus to allow the PAC to hear evidence from the whistleblower. One source claimed this was to avoid potential “grandstanding” by PAC members if a vote had denied them from questioning the whistleblower.

In a statement this evening, PAC chairman John McGuinness insisted that the Ombudsman’s investigation “will not overlap with the examination by the PAC of the report of the C&AG”.

“The PAC is looking at systems processes and procedures used in the management of the fixed charge notice system and whether possible weaknesses in systems and in controls could potentially have led to a loss to the Exchequer,” he said.

“The Garda Ombudsman will investigate the allegations of multiple incidents of wrongful cancellations which are outside the remit of the Committee. The work of the PAC is not finished and the Committee needs to do a report with findings and recommendations based on evidence that outlines potential loss of revenue and weaknesses in the system.”

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said it was her “strong preference” to have the individual before the committee in public session, but deferred to the majority view of the committee.

“I have expressed my belief that it is important that the whistleblowers are afforded the opportunity to give evidence. I welcome that this opportunity has now been presented,” she said.

McCabe is one of two whistleblowers who has questioned the administration of the fixed charge notices system. The claims have been robustly dismissed by Garda Commisioner Martin Callinan.

Read: Government tells PAC to cooperate with Garda Ombudsman investigation

Read: ‘I’m not trying to silence whisteblowers’ – Shatter >

‘We cannot do all the work’: PAC’s growing prominence leads to tensions among members

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Hugh O'Connell

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