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The PAC wants information on the systems gardaí used to record phone calls

The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee has said the committee is likely to seek information from the gardaí and the Department of Justice on the systems used to record calls in and out of garda stations.

John McGuinness (File photo)
John McGuinness (File photo)
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS Committee is likely to seek information from An Garda Siochána and the Department of Justice on the money spent on systems that recorded calls in and out of garda stations, the committee’s chairman has said.

John McGuinness has told TheJournal.ie that the committee will discuss a request from the independent TD Shane Ross to investigate the awarding of a tender worth €500,000 for the installation or upgrading of recording equipment in nearly two dozen garda stations in 2008.

Ross wrote to the Fianna Fáil TD this morning and McGuinness said that discussion on the request will be held at the PAC’s meeting next Thursday.

He said “the likelihood is that we will pursue it” and added: “It is a piece of work that we could do.

“We would be dealing with the accounting officers of the Department of Justice and An Garda Siochána. We have no information about it so we have to get the information, look at procurement processes, the cost, the rationale behind that and then decide what we’re going to do.”

McGuinness did not rule out the committee calling the secretary general of the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell, and the acting interim Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan before it, but said for the time being the PAC will likely be seeking “paperwork relative to the procurement process”.

Public hearings

“If something arose out of that that we were concerned about then that could be the course of action,” he said of the possibility of public hearings with Alan Shatter’s most senior official and the most senior garda in the State.

Ross said in his letter to McGuinness that in order to ascertain the value of the garda tendering “we should probably call the top officials in the Department of Justice and senior Gardai as witnesses”.

O’Sullivan last appeared at the PAC in January when she sat beside Callinan as he made his now infamous ‘disgusting’ remark about the actions of two garda whistleblowers.

McGuinness cautioned that the committee’s remit is not the legality of the gardaí recording calls, adding: “We would just look at the rationale behind it, who made the decisions, how much does it cost.”

However, Ross said that if money was being spent on activities found to be illegal then this must be pointed out, saying: “I think that if the money is being spent illegally or for illegal purposes than we have to point this out.”

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‘Publicity’

Despite the chairman of the powerful Dáil committee being keen to progress the matter, others on the PAC, including Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, said there are bigger issues at present.

“The most pressing issue is to examine the legal implications of the recordings,” the Wicklow TD said. “The issue of how much they paid for the devices is important, but is secondary at the moment.”

A committee source went further and suggested Ross was seeking publicity out of the whole controversy, saying: “It sounds like some members of the committee are looking for an excuse to drag the guards in for a bit of publicity,.”

Ross said that he was “unapologetic” about seeking publicity for the committee and its work.

He added: “I welcome publicity. The more of it the better, that’s the same thing to me as transparency.”

Read: These garda stations got new equipment to record telephone calls in 2008

Read: Public Accounts Committee could investigate €500,000 Garda recording tenders

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Hugh O'Connell

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