This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 16 February, 2019
Advertisement

Garda report on Templemore college can give 'no assurance' that its financial management is even 'adequate'

The findings of the internal audit report on the running of Templemore Training College has piled yet more pressure on Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

90227736_90227736 Source: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

A LONG-AWAITED REPORT into the management of the finances of Templemore training college in Co Tipperary, the main training facility for aspiring gardaí, has delivered a damning assessment of that management.

The force’s internal audit department says in its report (covering the period January 2009 until March 2016, and which can be read here) that it can offer “no assurance that the internal management and control systems in place to manage the finances at the Garda College are adequate”.

Specifically, the report concludes that:

  • No assurance can be given that financial controls at the college are compliant with either the Public Financial Procedures or the gardaí’s own Garda Finance Code
  • Limited assurance can be given that the relevant financial controls are in compliance with Public Procurement Legislation

Reasonable assurance can be given that staff costs, the management of vehicles, and the College Imprest Account (a sort of petty cash account for financial accounting) are “managed to a high standard”.

Whistleblower Story Nóirín O'Sullivan Source: Mark Stedman/Rollingnews.ie

The report has been a long time coming. An April 2008 report by the force’s Finance Directorate identified many of the issues of concern that are detailed in today’s release, fully nine years later. Its publication looks set to pile yet more pressure on Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in the wake of the Garda breathalyser farrago revealed last week.

O’Sullivan has repeatedly described the shortcomings in management at the college as ‘legacy’ issues.

Recommendations

The main findings and recommendations of the report are:

  1. Garda staff assigned to administrate the college “had no training in or experience of administration” and had no knowledge of public financial procedures
  2. All bank accounts assigned to the college, bar the Imprest account, should be closed
  3. All land and buildings at Templemore should be transferred to the Office of Public Works (OPW)
  4. All rent collected at the nearby Dromad Farm site (which was initially to be developed as a tactical training centre which never saw the light of day following the financial crash) between 2009 and 2013 (€125,000) should likewise be transferred to the OPW, which first purchased the site in 2007
  5. The gardaí’s statement of internal financial control for 2015 should be amended to show that the college was not compliant with public procedures

Other technical recommendations are made regarding both required expert financial staffing at the college and the dissolution of  the Garda College Sportsfield Co Ltd (a control account which pops up throughout the report and described as a ‘corporate veil’), while Garda staff who were directors of that entity are required to correct the public record concerning ethics in public office.

The report makes no recommendations as to whether or not the Minister for Justice should be consulted regarding the report’s findings, with the internal audit function saying that it is not in a legally competent position to advise upon that action.

90227691_90227691 Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

It further states that training regarding public financial procedures must be instigated, and that it should be given to senior gardaí also as part of their professional development

‘Laundry’ account

The report details how the Dromad Farm rental income was used for ‘miscellaneous expenditure’ in 2010 (such as €440 for ‘entertainment’) and was also used to cross-subsidise the Sportsfield Co, the company that was used by Garda management as “an integral part” of the college operation.

The €125,000 that was collected in rent on the farm was collected and lodged to the Garda Restaurant account, rather than being transferred to the OPW, the legal owner of the land.

The Sportsfield Co is described by the report as a “corporate veil”, or a construct created to separate corporate entities.

The 50 bank accounts discovered by the audit with connections to the college, and the many transactions in and out of those accounts, created “a non-transparent system of accounting” according to the report.

Perhaps the least transparent instance documented in the report is the existence of the Garda Laundry Account.

This account was funded by €0.20 per day per student which was then charged to the Garda restaurant before being transferred to the account.

While the account may have been titled ‘Laundry’, more than one third of its transactions in 2008 (over €59,000 in total prior to the account’s closure) had nothing to do with cleaning clothes.

Examples of the expenditure documented during that period include:

  • Amount owed by GAA club – €5,527
  • Contribution to Parish Clergy – €2,150
  • Staff Bonus – €500
  • Jewellery and Gifts – €300

laundry Expenditure of 'Laundry' account during 2008 Source: An Garda Síochána

Click here to view a larger image

Reaction

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has this afternoon described the report’s findings as “incredible”.

Cullinane, a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said that the findings “cannot be allowed to be passed off as a ‘legacy issue’”.

“It comes at a time when public trust in An Garda Síochana is at an all-time low,” he said.

The obfuscation and lack of accountability displayed by the Garda Commissioner means that (she) is simply not able to bring the clean sweep that is needed to restore trust and ensure that An Garda Síochana adheres to standards expected by the general public.

“The use of de facto slush funds at the college once again raises more questions than answers about the internal operations of An Garda Síochana,” he added.

Meanwhile, Labour’s representative on the PAC (and local Tipperary TD) Alan Kelly said that an “explanation is needed”.

“This report raises a number of concerns, not least the time it’s taken to publish it, given that these issues go back a number of years,” he said.

I’m also clearly concerned by what’s in this report, and have raised it with the Minister for Justice.
As has been highlighted in recent days, it is absolutely paramount that the public has full confidence in an Garda Síochána, and the Training College at Templemore is at the heart of this.

“That the basic best accounting practices at Templemore may not have been observed is not acceptable, and unfortunately undermines the reputation of the college,” Kelly added.

Commissioner O’Sullivan is expected to give testimony to the Oireachtas Justice Committee tomorrow morning regarding the recent scandals which have engulfed the force.

Read: Coveney says Maynooth and Cobh to be designated rent pressure zones from midnight

Read: A Tory MP wants to stop politicians’ wages in the North. Gerry Adams just called him a ‘tube’

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

Read next:

COMMENTS (40)