Vote 20 - Garda Síochána - Internal Audit Report on Garda College, Templemore

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan (Commissioner, An Garda Síochána) called and examined.

Everybody is very welcome to the meeting. I ask everybody to turn off their mobile phones. That would be appreciated.

In the first session today we looked at the Bord na gCon financial statements for 2015. In this session we will be looking at the 2015 appropriation accounts, Vote 20 for the Garda Síochána, dealing specifically with the internal audit of financial procedures in the Garda College in Templemore. We will confine discussion in the meeting to that matter today. We will deal with the rest of the Vote on 13 July when the Commissioner will be before the committee again. That is a very good date as it is my birthday so I look forward to that. Discussion is confined to a very specific issue and members might bear that in mind. I ask members to co-operate with that direction in their dealings today.

From An Garda Síochána we are joined by Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan; Mr. Kenneth Ruane, head of legal affairs; Mr. John Barrett, executive director of human resources and people development; Mr. Joseph Nugent, chief administrative officer, Deputy Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin, with responsibility for governance and strategy; Mr. Niall Kelly, head of internal audit and; Mr. Michael Culhane, executive director of finance and services.

From the Department of Justice and Equality we are joined by Mr. John O'Callaghan, assistant secretary of the policing division; Ms Anne Barry and Mr. Paul McDonald, and from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform we are joined by Mr. John Burke. The witnesses are all very welcome.

I advise the witnesses that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence in relation to a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise nor make charges against any person, persons or entity, by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

I will first call on the Comptroller and Auditor General to make an opening statement. He is accompanied by Ms Mary Henry, deputy director of audit.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

In line with the committee's focus today on the internal audit report in relation to aspects of financial management at the Garda College in Templemore, I do not propose to comment in relation to the Vote 20 appropriation account per se. The statement on internal financial control in the 2015 appropriation account for Vote 20 - An Garda Síochána, includes a disclosure that a number of features of the provision of ancillary services in the Garda College were not compliant with standard public governance procedures, and that an examination by An Garda Síochána's internal audit was ongoing.

The internal audit report finds that on a number of occasions over the past decade issues had arisen within An Garda Síochána about certain financial procedures at the college. These issues were not communicated to my office until 31 May 2016 when the head of the Garda's internal audit, Mr. Niall Kelly, notified us of the concerns. That was after the 2015 appropriation account had been submitted to me for audit, and while the audit was under way. Mr. Kelly informed us that he planned to undertake an internal audit of the college’s affairs, and that duly commenced on 22 June 2016. On 29 August 2016, internal audit informed us that an interim report had been drafted, and that significant issues had been identified that required further investigation. Because we did not have a report or the detail of the findings at that stage, we asked the Accounting Officer to amend the 2015 statement on internal financial control to disclose the non-compliance with corporate governance standards, and advised that an investigation was ongoing. I signed off on the audit on 5 September 2016.

A copy of the interim report executive summary was provided to my office on 13 September 2016. We were provided with the final report on the internal audit on 22 March 2017.

We are examining the information and concerns outlined in the internal audit report and will be examining relevant records as part of the audit of the 2016 appropriation account to identify the implications for Vote 20 and other Votes, if relevant. I plan to report my conclusions on the matter in September when I publish the 2016 report on the accounts of the public services.

I thank the Comptroller and Auditor General and call on the Garda Commissioner, Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan, to make her opening statement.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The financial processes and procedures the Garda internal audit unit uncovered in the interim report on the Garda College were not fit for purpose and are unacceptable by corporate governance standards. Many of the issues identified have their roots in the 1980s before the Garda Commissioner became the Accounting Officer. While attempts were made to address some of these issues, they were not sufficient and did not go far enough. While some practices, as identified in the interim audit report, should not have happened and are certainly well short of modern financial procedures and controls and public sector governance and financial procedures, it should be noted that the report has found the majority of expenditure at the Garda College is managed to a high standard and compliant with the Garda finance code. It is also important to provide reassurance that the Garda College continues to provide high quality training.

As Accounting Officer, I take my statutory responsibility for how An Garda Síochána spends taxpayer’s money very seriously. It is vital that it be spent efficiently and effectively and in the best interests of the people, the State and An Garda Síochána. That is why on receipt of the draft interim internal audit report in September 2016 the Garda executive immediately accepted its findings and commenced implementation of the recommendations. We are actively seeking to ensure the issues raised in the recently published report will be addressed as quickly as possible by putting strong financial and administrative controls in place in the Garda College.

When the matters raised at the Garda College came to the attention of the Garda executive in July 2015, they were of grave concern. It was directed that a high level steering group, to include representatives from the Department of Justice and Equality, be established immediately. Between July 2015 and March 2016, the steering group actioned a number of initiatives, including closing bank accounts and seeking legal advice to resolve some of the complex issues associated with unwinding the existing systems and governance arrangements.

In March 2016 the Garda internal audit unit was appointed to examine all of the issues involved. It produced a draft interim report in September 2016, including a total of 19 recommendations. Given the seriousness of the issues identified, all of the recommendations were accepted immediately. At the time all interested parties were also invited to make submissions. The report was finalised and accepted by the Garda audit committee in March 2017 and published by An Garda Síochána. The March 2017 report and its recommendations have been accepted fully by the executive.

Since September 2016, activity has been focused on implementation of the report’s recommendations. In that time we have also sought the advice of independent external governance experts. I will outline some of the actions taken to date.

Responsibility for college administration, including revised financial procedures, has now been assigned to an acting interim principal administrator. The administrator is a civilian Garda member at principal officer level who has not previously worked at the Garda College and who has experience of public financial procedures. The administrator is heading an interim administration team in the Garda College.

A new operational structure for administrative functions and ancillary services in the Garda College has been designed and we are seeking approval from the Policing Authority to recruit personnel with the appropriate financial and administrative skills. External accountants have been appointed to provide specialist accounting services and advice on the implementation of the recommendations made in the interim audit report.

The number of bank accounts identified in the interim audit report in the Garda College has been reduced to six. We are in the process of closing down the remaining accounts in line with the recommendations of the report.

We are working with the Office of Public Works to ensure all interests in the lands are in State ownership. We are working with the Office of Government Procurement to prepare tenders for the provision of food and ancillary services in the Garda College. The Institute of Public Administration is to provide training for appropriate Garda staff and members on public financial procedures and standards.

A dedicated project team has been put in place to ensure the interim audit report’s recommendations will be fully implemented. The project team reports to the steering committee chaired by the chief administrative officer, Mr. Nugent. It includes a representative from the Department of Justice and Equality. Regular updates on progress are provided for the head of internal audit, the Garda audit committee, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Policing Authority. An assistant commissioner has been tasked with conducting a preliminary examination to establish whether there are other matters that require further inquiry and, if so, to make recommendations on the appropriate approach to be adopted.

The practices identified in the interim audit report are unacceptable. We are actively implementing the report’s recommendations. As I have said publicly on other matters, An Garda Síochána uncovered these deficiencies and we are working closely with the Department of Justice and Equality, the Policing Authority, the Garda audit committee, the Office of Public Works and the Comptroller and Auditor General to ensure they cannot happen again.

The lead speaker in the first session is Deputy David Cullinane. The second speaker will be Deputy Catherine Murphy who will be followed by Deputy Alan Farrell.

I welcome the Garda Commissioner and her team. Will she explain her involvement with the Garda College historically and the different supervisory roles she played? Will she give us that information first because it would be useful for us to have it?

It is to set a context. The Commissioner obviously went there, but after that did she have any role before becoming Commissioner?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

As the Vice Chairman said, I was in the Garda College as a recruit for six months in 1981. In 2000, on promotion to the rank of superintendent, I spent a period there in charge of specialist training, which meant detective, firearms and other specialist training.

Did the Commissioner have any role in the area of human resources? Did she have an oversight role in the Garda College?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

As an assistant commissioner from October 2008 until roughly April 2009 I was involved in the area of human resources.

Did that involve an oversight role in the Garda College?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes; it came within my area of responsibility.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

In that six month period, yes.

The Commissioner has obviously read the internal audit report.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes.

The Commissioner used the word "unacceptable". On page 3 of the executive summary it is stated the GIAS, the Garda internal audit section, "can provide no assurance that the internal management control systems in place to manage the finances at the Garda College are adequate". It also states there was "No assurance that the financial controls at the Garda College are compliant with Public Financial Procedures" and that there was "No assurance that the financial controls at the Garda College are compliant with the Garda Finance Code". There was limited assurance in other areas. Is it more than unacceptable that, of all organisations, the corporate body that is An Garda Síochána is not able to provide an assurance for auditors or that the auditors are not able to provide an assurance for the public that the organisation is in compliance with public financial procedures, the Garda finance code and good practice and good financial controls?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

As I said in my opening statement, it is absolutely unacceptable. The complexity of these issues has rightly been highlighted in the internal audit report. They have their genesis in the 1980s and the Walsh report. The practices evolved over time. I can get Mr. Kelly or Mr. Culhane to speak about the issues involved. What is important is-----

I will stick with the Commissioner first to get her view.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Absolutely.

If I need their assistance, I will ask for it.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

We are talking about a proportion of the Vote. The assurances around normal practices at the college are reasonable and highlighted in point No. 4 on page 3 of the innterim audit report. However, it is absolutely unacceptable that no assurances can be provided in respect of the remaining portion. They are practices that evolved over a four decades. They are certainly not in line with public financial management procedures in place today and most certainly not in line with existing corporate governance standards.

I have read the report several times. Would it be fair to say there was a litany of failures, that there were sloppy practices, maladministration and mistakes made across the board? Would that be a fair assessment?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

We have to be mindful that it is an interim audit report and that the work of Mr. Kelly and his team is continuing. What has been found is a combination of financial irregularities, practices that are not acceptable by today's standards and that evolved over time.

I am just trying to establish whether we can get agreement before I proceed. When I say that there were failures, the Commissioner accepts that. I used the words "sloppy practices". If the Commissioner wants to use different words she can do so but my view is that there were sloppy practices, maladministration and completely unacceptable financial controls in place. Would that be a fair assessment based on a lay person's observations having read the internal audit report?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

In terms of the internal audit report, a lot of the records are not available. To be fair to the audit team and given the time that was allocated for conducting the audit, it was very difficult to find records that go back over 40 years. Extensive work was done in an attempt to identify where those records were and to identify what the exact issues were but I absolutely agree that they are unacceptable standards by-----

I would prefer if the Commissioner answered the question that was put. I did not ask about records that we are not aware of or that we have not seen. I am asking the Commissioner to comment on records that the internal audit team did have. On the basis of the records that they did have, they published their report. I put it to the Commissioner that the report highlights a litany of failures, sloppy practices and maladministration. Can we all accept, as a starting point, that this is the case?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

We have accepted it. As I said in my opening statement, the practices were unacceptable and they remain so. They were unacceptable at the time and we are putting in place procedures to regularise them and make sure they are correct.

We will get to that later. I am interested in the relationship between the corporate body that is An Garda Síochána and good practice. An awful lot has been said - as I am sure the Commissioner is well aware - in recent times about the culture in An Garda Síochána. There is a perception, with which the Commissioner may not agree, that when there is wrongdoing, failures or sloppy practices, the modus operandi or the instinct of the corporate body that is An Garda Síochána is to close ranks, defend wrongdoing, ignore issues and frustrate the work of people within the force who want to do the right thing. I put it to the Commissioner that such is the perception out there. I ask her to give me her opinion on that perception, of which I am sure she is aware.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes, it is something of which I am very aware. On 9 June 2016, when we published our modernisation and renewal programme, one key issue we identified was the need to reform the culture of An Garda Síochána. It is more than just an aspiration in a document; it is something that we commenced going all the way back to 2014 when I took up the position of interim Garda Commissioner. The Deputy will have seen from this and from other issues that part of the changing of that culture is to make sure that we identify the issues, make them known publicly and that we are prepared to open up the organisation to constructive criticism. We also have to have the courage and bravery to empower our people to actually identify where mistakes have happened, where there are less-than-good practices or weak practices and to make sure that we do not just identify those but that we actually do something about them and go about fixing them. That is what we are doing in this case.

We will put that to the test now by determining whether issues were ignored and whether the work of people who wanted to bring these issues to the attention of the appropriate individuals was frustrated. I want to put that to the test and examine that because before one can reform any organisation, there must be an acceptance that there was serious wrongdoing and that the culture was not right.

In terms of the report itself, I am interested in following the timeframe. It took an awfully long time for the internal audit unit to publish its report, given when this issue first surfaced in the organisation. Page 12 of the internal audit report makes reference to concerns that were first expressed about the finances in the college in an incomplete and unfinished audit report which was conducted by the Garda internal audit section in 2006, a year before it was restructured. Why was that report incomplete and unfinished? Who was responsible for that report? Is the person responsible for that report in the room? I ask the Commissioner to answer those questions.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I can ask Mr. Kelly, who examined the reports, to answer those questions.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I moved to An Garda Síochána in June 2007. The report I found on the files was from the year before I started in An Garda Síochána. There was an internal audit unit in An Garda Síochána from 2001, as far as I know, but it was staffed entirely by uniformed gardaí who did not have the requisite professional experience. I came on board as an established head of internal audit. My previous job was head of internal audit in the then Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. I restructured the unit, brought professional staff on board and trained them-----

It was not Mr. Kelly who was responsible. I asked why the report was incomplete and Mr. Kelly has said that the expertise was not there to do it. Who carried out the audit? Who was the author of that report?

Mr. Niall Kelly

There was a team there in the past. I am not aware of who, specifically, was the author. I found-----

Can this committee be furnished with a copy of that report?

Mr. Niall Kelly

That report was in files when I came to the unit. Concerns were raised as a result of that.

In terms of providing clarity, who wrote it?

Mr. Niall Kelly

The Garda internal audit unit, before my time. I am not sure who was in that unit.

Mr. Kelly does not know the name, but it was not him. Can we have a copy of that report?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I am sure we can get a copy of it for the committee.

That 2006 report was incomplete but it was not until 2008 that a report was completed by the finance directorate which concluded as follows: "Our examination and review have uncovered discrepancies in compliance ... and exposes the organisation to substantial risk in terms of internal controls". The issue has been highlighted and a report was prepared stating there was substantial risk to the organisation, to the corporate body. What was done then? The 2008 report was not forwarded to the Garda internal audit section and was only discovered as part of the more recent audit by the internal audit unit. In that context, my question is who authored the 2008? Is that person in the room?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No, the person is not in the room.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It is a member of the executive director of finance's staff.

Why is that person not here?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The person is not here but can be made available to a future meeting of the committee.

I would have thought that the person who was the author of one of the substantial reports would have been here today. We asked that people who were relevant to this internal audit would be here.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The people who have access to the report are all here to discuss its contents.

Can the Commissioner tell me why the report was not forwarded on to the Garda internal audit section?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It was forwarded on to the Commissioner by the chief administrative officer. I can get my colleagues to come in here again-----

That is not the question I asked, with respect. I hope that I get answers to the questions that I put. What I asked was why the report was not given to the Garda internal audit section.

I ask the Commissioner to answer the questions that are asked, please.

That is the critique in the latest report, that the 2008 report was not given to the appropriate auditing committee of An Garda Síochána. Why was it not given?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The investigation that Mr. Kelly is conducting as part of the internal audit is continuing. We are endeavouring to identify the whole chain of correspondence and the decision making around that.

Is it that the Commissioner does not know? I am trying to establish if the Commissioner knows why the 2008 report was not given to the Garda internal audit section. Who made the decision not to forward that report to the appropriate body?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

What we do know is that report was forwarded to the Commissioner of the day. The Commissioner accepted the recommendations, which were forwarded by the chief administrative officer-----

That is not what I asked.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

-----and they were sent for implementation.

I have to ask the Commissioner to answer the question.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Will the Deputy repeat the question?

For the third time, why was the 2008 finance directorate's report not given to the Garda internal audit section and who made the decision not to give it to the section? If the Commissioner had the report, was it his or her decision?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It is not clear from the correspondence that we have available to us. I can get Mr. Kelly or Mr. Culhane to elaborate, or indeed, the chief administrative officer, who has reviewed all of the papers, but it is my understanding that it is not evident from the material available who made that decision.

I am sorry for interjecting but for the purposes of clarity, is the Commissioner saying that regarding the 2008 report, which obviously should have been forwarded, the analysis to date has failed to discover why it was not forwarded?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

There is no doubt it should have been forwarded to the GIAS. We have not been able to identify from the correspondence available to us.

We have been able to identify that it got up as far as the Commissioner.

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

Yes.

Who in An Garda Síochána was responsible for making sure it was submitted to the GIAS in 2008?

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

The then deputy strategy and change manager-----

Is that person in the room?

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

No.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I currently hold that position.

But not at the time.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Not at all.

Is the person still in the force?

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

No.

That person obviously then made the decision not to forward it on.

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

We do not know that and it is not clear from the documentation we have.

We know he or she did not send it on. Obviously, there was a reason it was not sent on.

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

We do not have any evidence to say why this was not done.

We will move on. What I am trying to get to is why it took so long from 2006 to 2016 to reach some conclusion on this matter. We are still at 2008. We know a report was done that was not sent to the GIAS. In a note to the Commissioner on 25 April 2008 - this is still page 12 of the internal audit - the then chief administrative officer advised that the audit committee be advised at its next meeting in June of the issues revealed and measures to correct them; that person’s opinion was not to brief the audit committee; and at that juncture, it could be regarded by the external members of the committee as a significant breach of trust. On page 13, it continues there is no record of such a briefing in the minutes of the June 2008 meeting or any subsequent meeting of the audit committee.

Again, this was a brief and note sent to the Garda Commissioner. Why was that not done? Why was it not sent on to the appropriate meeting? Why was it not an item on the agenda for that meeting? Who made the decision not to send it? Who was responsible for briefing the committee?

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

It is one of the questions we have asked Mr. Niall Kelly to continue in his audit, namely, to identify whether anyone has asked or examined the minutes of the previous audit meetings going back to 2008 to see if there is any reference or record.

Who was the chief administrative officer in 2008? Is that person in the room?

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

No, he is not.

There are an awful lot of people not in the room who should be here.

Is he still with the force?

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

No, he is not still serving. It is important to remember the context. We are talking about a period of time in which several people have retired.

That is understood.

That is part of the problem, namely, that it took us so long to get here. Maybe if the organisation had been swifter, we would have been able to put questions to the people who were in charge.

In any event, it was not done. Again, there were issues that were to be taken to the audit committee that were not. The Commissioner at the time would have been briefed that not to do so would represent a significant breach of trust, yet it was not done. Again, we do not know why the Commissioner is saying that is being examined as well.

There is no record of such a briefing in June 2008. Then in his report the chief administrative officer advises that the director of finance be authorised to conduct a full and comprehensive audit of all the financial activities in the college. On page 13, the report goes on to say the GIAS was not informed of this proposed audit. Who made the decision not to inform the GIAS?

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

Again, to the best of my knowledge, it is not evident from the papers we have available to us at this time. Mr. Niall Kelly’s audit is continuing.

Again, it was not done. Was any pressure exerted on any of these individuals not to forward any of these reports or communications either to the audit committee or the GIAS?

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

I have not been aware that any evidence has been identified in the course of the interim audit to suggest that is the case.

Then the chief administrative officer also advised that the Comptroller and Auditor General be advised. Was his office informed at that time?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

We have no record of being advised of any of those kinds of concerns at that time.

We are still in 2008. Not only was the GIAS not informed but the Garda internal audit, the committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General were not informed. I am just trying to following a pattern as to whether people were doing their job.

It seems astonishing that no records can be found on the decision-making - or non-decision-making - processes. Was that a culture at the time? This issue is in the public domain and everyone knows it has been going on for some time. However, consistently in response to the Deputy’s questions, there does not seem to be any records as regards decision-making. How does an organisation like An Garda Síochána operate in that manner? If there are records, they cannot be found. If that is the record, then it is even more disturbing.

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

I can let Mr. Niall Kelly answer the question because, in fairness, he conducted the investigation. I am not aware and I do not want to comment on the efforts or the extent of the searches that went on to get the documentation. It may well be that there is documentation available which will be recovered in the remainder of the ongoing audit.

There does not seem to be an iota to date.

Mr. Niall Kelly

There is documentation in place that states that the 2008 report went to the Commissioner. There is correspondence from the Commissioner to the chief administrative officer instructing the officer to do certain things, including to give the report to internal audit and to the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I did not find any evidence that it was done.

Is that acceptable?

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

No. As I said from the outset in my opening address, it is unacceptable.

When we conclude, will we find out if any of these people were held to account? Accountability is something that seems to be lacking as well.

The report has 12 specific recommendations from the financial directorate but only two were implemented. Of the six points agreed in correspondence between the Commissioner and the chief administrative officer, none of them was implemented. Given that this was a direction given by the Commissioner, does that then represent a breakdown in the chain of command? Would it be reasonable to surmise that was the case?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

If I can be helpful here, in 2010 there is a record that the individual recommendations were considered. Some of the recommendations were accepted and some were not. That is what the record shows. The reasons for that are not entirely clear but that is what the record shows.

Will Mr. Joseph Nugent turn to page 14 of the internal audit report and read the second paragraph? That does not seem to join with the answer he gave. Will he please read it for me, starting from the word “however”?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Of the 12 recommendations, only two were implemented. I am not disputing this.

Just read it for me first.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Apologies.

However, of the 12 specific recommendations from the finance directorate report 2008, only two were implemented. Of the six points agreed in correspondence between the Commissioner and the chief administrative officer, none was implemented.

Now that is the point. Was there a breakdown in the chain of command if that is the case? Is it reasonable to surmise if that was the case? Was there a reluctance to accept improvements needed to be made or changes should be carried out? Did it suggest any of that to Mr. Joseph Nugent?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

What the record showed to me was that the recommendations were not accepted in some instances. I agree it is unacceptable. However, the 12 recommendations were looked at. There were questions asked about some of the recommendations and the two referenced there were implemented.

It goes on. Unfortunately, for all of us it gets worse. On page 14, it states that on 2 March 2011, the GIAS reported to the Garda Commissioner on financial controls in 2010. It stated the GIAS could provide no assurance in regard to financial controls, that the GIAS sought to conduct an audit of the financial controls but was told work was being done by the finance directorate and because of that, it removed a paragraph from its own report. It then sought access to this report several times from the finance directorate. It stated that despite requests for access to this report, the GIAS was told it was still in draft even though it had been given to college management.

Again, there seems to be an ongoing attempt to frustrate the work of the GIAS. It was seeking this draft report and it could not get it. Is that the Commissioner’s understanding of what happened?

Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan

That is what is written in the report.

Is the finance directorate a person or an entity?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It is a section within An Garda Síochána.

Is there a head of section?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes, there is.

Is the person who was the head at that time in the room?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes, he is

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Mr. Culhane.

Will Mr. Culhane answer that question then, please?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I am sorry, but will the Deputy repeat the question?

If Mr. Culhane turns to page 14 of the report, he can see the two paragraphs which state, "GIAS can provide no assurance in regard to the financial controls in place". Reference is also made to "serious issues of concern". The report also states that at that stage, in 2008, "we sought to conduct an audit of the financial controls in the Garda College but we were informed that the Finance Directorate were updating the financial systems in the College and advised that we await the outcome of this work." The last line states, "We have sought access to this report on several occasions since but have been told that it is still in draft, a version of the report has however been provided to Management in the College." The GIAS sought the draft several times and never got it. Did Mr. Culhane make the decision not to give it that draft?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No, it is normal practice when we are drafting a report that it would go to the management in the college so that they could comment upon the report that would have been written to ensure the accuracy of the report and in terms of the progress that they were making on the recommendations included in the report of 2008.

That is fine but if internal audit was looking for a copy of the draft report as well, what was wrong with giving it one? As I am sure Mr. Culhane is aware that the issues date back to 2006, I imagine that the GIAS was anxious to do its job. It sought a copy of the report. Did Mr. Culhane make a decision, for whatever reason, not to give that draft report to the GIAS when it requested it?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No, I did not make that decision. I report up the line to the chief administrative officer.

Who made the decision?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I am not aware of who made the decision not to give the copy of the report to internal audit.

Does Mr. Culhane not know who made the decision? There seems to be a very sloppy chain of command-----

There seems to be a pattern.

-----which is very worrying in the light of the fact that this is An Garda Síochána. I asked who was the head of the finance directorate. I was told Mr. Culhane was.

Mr. Michael Culhane

It was me, yes.

Therefore, somebody else up the chain of command such as the Commissioner might be able to help me.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes. The director of finance, Mr. Culhane, reports to the chief administrative officer. Another person was in the position but the role is now occupied by Mr. Nugent.

When did that person leave?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

From memory, I think it was 2010.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

On page 15 of the report, the Deputy will see that, on 4 March 2011, the report from the executive director of finance was forwarded to the head of internal audit unit.

Yes, it was after that time. I want to move on and we can seek clarification as much we can at the end on the questions. On 6 July 2015, the executive director of human resources and people development delivered a report to the CEO entitled Summary of Issues Arising from the Reports and Discussions Held at the Garda College. I understand the purpose of the report was to prepare the CEO so that person could brief the Garda audit committee. Who was the executive director at the time?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Mr. Barrett.

Mr. Barrett. Was the report commissioned or done so that the Garda audit committee could be briefed? Was the Garda audit committee briefed?

Mr. John Barrett

No, I learned at the end of the month that it had not been. The intention was that it would be briefed at its meeting on 15 July.

Mr. John Barrett

No. I understand it was not on that occasion.

Who made the decision not to brief?

Mr. John Barrett

I do not know.

Does anyone in the room know who made the decision not to brief?

Mr. John Barrett

My report was given to my line manager, Cyril Dunne, who is a member of that committee and who had expressed to me his intention to brief the committee.

Is Mr. Dunne in the room?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No.

Is he the person who made the decision not to give the report?

Mr. John Barrett

I can only assume so.

For the sake of clarity, Mr. Barrett compiled the report and he gave it to the chief administration officer to give to the audit committee.

Mr. John Barrett

He had commissioned it on the basis that the meeting was coming up and what he wanted to do was synthesise the reports of 2008 and 2010-----

That is understandable.

Mr. John Barrett

-----and have the issues broken out.

I have questions about breaches in law which I will deal with very quickly but the final issue in respect of the report is that it was not just that meeting, it was raised again in September only under order of business, which is extraordinary.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

The matter was not brought to the July meeting. That was a decision that Mr. Dunne made at the time. It was a significant report with lots in it. I do not know why he did not bring it to the committee.

I am referring to the meeting of 30 September.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

But he did bring it to the meeting of 30 September. It was not just for mention. There was a significant amount of detail given to the committee on that date.

I am reading from the internal audit itself where it says that it was mentioned under any other business and that copies of the report were not circulated to the committee members. Given that it was a serious report, is Mr. Ó Cualáin seriously telling me that it merited being raised under any other business?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

No, I am not, but what I can tell the Deputy is that I am aware that it received a lot of time at that meeting.

Can Mr. Ó Cualáin see on page 16 where it says that at the audit committee meeting on 30 September the chief administrative officer gave an oral account of some of the issues under any other business? It is stated the report was not circulated to the committee.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Yes, the report was not circulated. That is correct, but a detailed oral account was given.

Why was the report not circulated?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I cannot answer that question.

Was it normal? Again, there is a pattern here. I ask Deputy Cullinane to allow me in for a moment. There is no documentation, no minutes, no notes. It is lucky that it was brought up under any other business. We should be thankful.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Perhaps I might be helpful. This matter was brought to my attention on 30 July and what was immediately evident from the correspondence I received from Deputy Commissioner Ó Cualáin-----

It was 30 July in which year?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

In 2015. What was evident was that it required a lot of work to be done to identify what the issues were. A group was immediately set up, chaired by the then chief administrative officer and including representatives from the Department of Justice and Equality, to identify the issues and to be able to get a complete picture of what we were dealing with here and to address some of the issues which we are now trying to address here also. On the retirement of the chief administrative officer, that group was taken over on an interim basis by the deputy commissioner and then, subsequently, by the chief administrative officer. A lot of work was going on at that time.

It seems extraordinary that the pattern has continued and that a report as significant as this was not circulated.

I want to move on to the breaches in law very quickly but before I do, I wish to state that we need copies of all the reports-----

Will Mr. Barrett indicate if there is a copy of the report?

May I finish first?

I am sorry. The Deputy should go ahead.

It is not just copies of reports but also any correspondence between the Commissioner and all of the different individuals who are cited where there was an exchange of papers and reports and minutes of meetings that took place. Mr. Ó Cualáin said there was an extensive discussion at the committee meeting.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I was not there but from reading the minutes, it would appear there was extensive discussion.

We need all of those minutes, correspondence and copies of the reports.

Do we have a copy of the report of 2015 that Mr. Barrett put together?

Mr. John Barrett

I have copies if you want one.

Will Mr. Barrett circulate some copies?

Mr. John Barrett

Surely.

They should be given to the clerk. That would be helpful.

The final issue I want to raise relates to breaches in law. I am sure the Commissioner will accept that legislation is put in place for people to follow, implement and abide by and that any breach of legislation is essentially a breach in law. Is that the case? If one does not follow legislation it is potentially a breach in law.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Potentially, yes.

Potentially, yes. On page 4 of the report it is stated that "the issues identified in this report are serious and present considerable risk to the organisation and should be dealt with in an open and transparent manner." On page 6 it is stated that Garda HRM would have to remind staff who are directors of Garda College Sportsfield Company Limited of their legal obligations to provide appropriate legal support to help them retrospectively report to SIPO. The Commissioner will see that it says that superintendents, possibly a chief superintendent, and others who had legal responsibilities in respect of SIPO failed to make declarations that needed to be made. Is that not correct?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

That is what the report states.

That is what the report states. Would that represent a breach in law?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

What I said in my opening address is that, further to the audit being conducted and continuing by Mr. Kelly, we also have an assistant commissioner examining the content of the interim audit report to identify if there are any further matters required.

On page 17 it is stated An Garda Síochána did not have the authority to enter into an arrangement in terms of the Dromad farm because that was in contravention of section 29(3) of the Garda Síochána Act.

That provision prohibits An Garda Síochána from entering into contracts relating to land. It states that money raised was to be transferred to the Office of Public Works. Page 20 states section 29(3) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 prohibits gardaí from being involved in land contracts and that the legal standing of the Garda college management as directors was questionable. Page 21 states that Garda members, including superintendents, did not make declarations that they should have made. There is a litany of breaches, potentially, in law.

This is my final question to the Commissioner. This report is serious - the Commissioner has accepted that. It seems there was an attempt by people within the Garda Síochána College to frustrate the work of the Garda internal audit service. That is how I see it, because it took a long time - this goes back to 2006 - to get reports, papers and documents that should have been given to internal audit but that were not given. We had breaches in law as well. I have not even got to any of the issues relating to the bank accounts, including the laundry account, the bar account and the restaurant account. Other members will go through the detail in terms of how all the money was spent in ways in which it should not have been spent.

Several breaches of legislation are documented in the internal audit. How can the Garda Commissioner be satisfied that the law was not broken by members of the force in terms of any of these issues? How can the Garda Commissioner be certain that there was no criminal wrongdoing?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

What I have said is that as well as the ongoing audit that is being conducted by Mr. Kelly, an assistant commissioner is looking at the content of the other report and what has been found today. It is evident that a couple of things need clarity. The company we are talking about was established in 1993. To be fair to Mr. Kelly and the team, they did not have time to go back to 1993 to see what led to the establishment of that company and who was aware of the establishment of that company. Moreover, the legislation in place at the time was a different form of legislation. That is one thing.

When did the Commissioner first become aware of that company?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

In 2015.

That was the first time. Is that correct?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes, as part of the ongoing work that Mr. Kelly and the chief administrative officer were doing.

Second, there is a perception that An Garda Síochána bought a farm. The fact is the land was acquired. There was a requirement by An Garda Síochána for land that needed to be acquired to develop a tactical training facility within the environs of Templemore, because of the development of An Garda Síochána.

The point I was making was that the internal audit cites breaches in legislation time and again. I was not looking for excuses around whether people own farms. What I am saying is that this is the report I am working from. Over and over, the report I have cited documents, potentially, several breaches of different Acts by members of An Garda Síochána. Who examines that? Who investigates that? Who ensures that there was no criminal wrongdoing by anyone in An Garda Síochána in respect of any potential breaches in law? Whose job is it to ensure that is done?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I am keen to assist the committee. It is important we are clear. The land acquired on behalf of An Garda Síochána was acquired by the OPW. As I said in the opening remarks in respect of the actions we are taking, we are working with the OPW to look at that and to establish exactly how that happened. We are also looking at, with the OPW-----

Was An Garda Síochána receiving rent for something it did not own?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

We have to be very clear. Even since the interim audit report was finalised, other documentation has been found to indicate that the initial rents were given to the OPW by the leaseholders.

I think I am reading this correctly. Perhaps the Comptroller and Auditor General can confirm the point. With respect, the report states that €126,000 needs to be transferred from the An Garda Síochána Vote to the OPW because the money was collected. We now know that much of that money was spent on things like donations and gifts to members of An Garda Síochána. Essentially, what is happening here is that the taxpayer is footing the bill. The taxpayer has to pay the €126,000. The money will be given from the Garda Vote to the OPW, but much of that money was spent on insurance, gifts, bars and restaurants. Again, the taxpayer is going to foot the bill. Is that not what has happened here? Much of that money is spent. It is gone. If the money is transferred from the Vote of An Garda Síochána, the taxpayer will be footing the bill and we will not get it back from the people who spent the money. Is that acceptable? Is that what is happening here?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

As I said in the opening address, we are continuing to work to implement the recommendations. As the chief administrative officer has outlined, this includes ensuring that we regularise the accounts and the accounting practices in place. There is no question that the money will be transferred to the OPW.

I think “regularise” is a great word. Many things are hidden behind the word “regularise”. Deputy Murphy is next. Deputy Cullinane, you will have another chance.

Page 7 of the report describes Templemore as a modern university campus. It goes on to say the Garda Síochána College provides education and training programmes and interventions, ranging from MA, BA, BSc, police leadership, higher diploma, certificates in firearms, driver training, and public order courses. Therefore, this is an educational establishment.

The Garda is acutely aware of the importance of training. Page 4 tells us that the Garda staff assigned to administrative roles in the college had no training or experience of administration and had no knowledge of public financial procedures. It is pretty shocking stuff, especially in the context of the college as a training and educational campus. Someone obviously appointed the people to do the work. We cannot blame people who do not have training. The Garda has to provide the training. However, someone decided to appoint them. Is there a consequence? Is the person who made that appointment still there? Is there a consequence for anyone in that regard?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The Walsh report on training, which led to the development of the college into the training and education facility described by Deputy Murphy, goes back to the 1980s. Deputy Murphy has rightly identified something that we have identified for a long time: it is not appropriate for Garda members who are trained police officers to be carrying out these types of functions or for them to be put into these functions without the appropriate training. That is why we have moved on to working with the Policing Authority and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to get properly skilled and suitably qualified civilian members into those roles. That is why we have gone on to address it in the interim by putting in a principal officer with the appropriate level of skill to implement the revised recommendations. It is quite inappropriate otherwise.

I do not think any other organisation of the size and scale of An Garda Síochána that provides such a vital function and that requires such training would be expected to put members in place who are not qualified. However, that was the reality at the time because there was a moratorium on recruiting properly and suitably skilled professional civilians. Now that the moratorium has been lifted, we are moving to address it.

Are there consequences for anyone?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Again, when the audit report is completed we will look back and see. We are talking about structures that were put in place in the 1980s.

Standards in public office obligations are relevant. Those of us who are elected to the House are in fear of the standards in public office obligations and are aware of being in compliance with that office. I would have thought every public servant and garda was acutely aware of the responsibility. There are many failings. How seriously was the requirement to be in compliance with the standards in public office obligations taken in An Garda Síochána?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I can answer that question. I have met with the directors of the company involved. It is fair to say they were not aware. I am not excusing it. I am saying they were not aware of their obligations. The committee will see that as part of the recommendations we have agreed to work with those involved in respect of providing advice in that area.

Across my time in the public service I have certainly seen circumstances where individuals have become directors as a result of taking positions in an organisation. In this case, that would appear to have led people to believe certain things about how they should fulfil their requirements. Clearly, it is not correct. I have spoken to the directors about their responsibilities in that regard.

Is this part of Garda training now?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I will come back to that point again. The whole principle here relates to this company. The intention is that this company will be taken off the stage. That is the priority in this regard. As the Commissioner has said, it was established in the 1980s, long before the position of the An Garda Síochána Accounting Officer was established. It was put there for a particular reason. The Deputy might not like my saying it, but we do not know why this was or the specific rationale for it.

The Commissioner said that she first became aware of it in 2015. I understand that but surely a significant number of people actually knew about it.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

That is what the continuation of the audit will identify, hopefully.

Many assistant commissioners must have had responsibility for Templemore. That is the way line management works. I represent Templemore so obviously I know it quite well. Surely each of those officers must have known about this company? How could they not know? How could they not know that this existed? Where did they think that the money was going? Did no one, in 25 or 30 years, ever ask the question?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Questions were asked, and they would have been aware that there was a company, the Sportsfield Company-----

The current Commissioner did not know until 2015.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

People who served there, who were on staff-----

I understand that but the assistant commissioner who was in charge would know.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

They would not have to know what was going on, I contend.

I would like to return to the date in July 2015 when the Commissioner became aware of all of this. I know from the Comptroller and Auditor General's statement on Vote 20 that it does not appear to have been notified to the Comptroller and Auditor General until 31 May 2016. Why is that?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Work was ongoing to establish the facts of the whole situation in order that a report could be compiled to set out what had gone on all the way back to 2006 when the initial report was made that Mr. Kelly had identified. As soon as the internal audit work was ongoing, the Comptroller and Auditor General's office was informed.

Would it not have been prudent to immediately inform the Comptroller and Auditor General?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It may well have been but the group that was working on this was identifying what were all of the issues and then once the audit work commenced, the Comptroller and Auditor General's office was informed.

That is very unsatisfactory. When anything like that arises there should be an immediate process of notification, because that is where the oversight is. On page 11 of the report we are told that accumulated funds made by the college restaurant and shop were transferred to Sportsfield Company Limited or invested in various investment accounts. It seems to have been quite a generator of income. If we turn to page 27 there appears to be money transferred into the account to keep the restaurant going when the moratorium was fully in place, but there seems to be money going into that account even in years when it was making a surplus. Was it just an account that money went through and then went to the Sportsfield account?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I believe it is the other way around. The money would have been going into the restaurant facility and from there into Sportsfield, where it was needed. My colleague, Mr. Kelly, might know better.

Mr. Niall Kelly

That would generally be the case. If we read the report there seems to have been movement of funds between all of these accounts, the bar, restaurant and shop accounts, but they were the generators of the funds and that money was passed to the Sportsfield Company Limited to develop the sports facilities and other expenditures.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

This company was established in 1983. We do not know why it was established but clearly it was established for a particular purpose, which was to become involved in the development of sporting facilities. The financial regime that was put in place around that was put in place for a particular purpose. Clearly, when one looks at the movement of moneys, especially during the period of accelerated recruitment, large surpluses became available. I am not saying that this is right or wrong but that is what happened. Clearly that is at issue in terms of-----

It is an interim report and it is quite obvious that we are going to have to see a lot more than this interim report. It is prompting questions rather than answering many of the obvious questions. Are the accounts related to the boat club subjected to internal audit?

Mr. Niall Kelly

The boat club is completely separate to An Garda Síochána. We do not have a remit to audit that.

Some €100,000 is transferred into a company that is separate from An Garda Síochána from funds that come into the restaurant - because of surpluses made in the restaurant - from public funds. Is that right?

Mr. Niall Kelly

That is correct, yes.

That was not picked up?

Mr. Niall Kelly

It is in the report.

It was not picked up earlier.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

The boat club is a Garda boat club. It was set up for Garda members. It is a separate club, as are all the other sports clubs.

The witnesses are both members of An Garda Síochána. Is there another word for the transfer of €100,000 into a private entity that has not been accounted for?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

It was not just the Garda boat club. There were many other sporting clubs that also benefitted from the transfer of funds from this fund in the college. It appears that the whole purpose of this company when it was set up was to develop sporting facilities for the student body.

That is a separate issue entirely. This money was allocated to cover the cost of the restaurant and facilities for members that were training in the college and it was capable of making a surplus. That surplus went into the restaurant account and from there into the Sportsfield Company, and from the Sportsfield Company to the boat club. The boat club happened to include the person who assigned it and who said it was given for the right reason. The witness said at the beginning that this was unacceptable, but when one starts trying to work out the narrative, it is very hard to get around the idea that this was members of An Garda Síochána, the people who enforce law.

Is that legal?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

To establish whether-----

Is that legal, in the Commissioner's opinion?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

In order to be able to establish whether there is a suspicion of something illegal happening, we have to have all of the materials available to consider. That is why an assistant commissioner has been appointed to review the content of the report and establish if further inquiry is warranted.

They were a law unto themselves as to how much of this was handled. It is put down to inexperience and lack of training but somebody had to be supervising it. Is there any suspicion that contracts could have been used as favours? Is there any follow-up on aspects like that following this initial interim report?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I have asked the people who have conducted the audit to date if there is anyone in the line management stream - all the way from the chief administrative officer, Mr Barrett, all the way down, or Mr. Kelly, who conducted the audit report - who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a crime has been committed at this point. I have been informed that there are no such grounds. However, we have not stopped there. I have asked an assistant commissioner to examine the content of the interim audit report.

To clarify, do all the witnesses agree with that statement?

Mr. John Barrett

It is too early to say on several fronts. In total the audit took ten weeks. The matters being dealt with went back a considerable period of years. There are several matters which are going to be followed up on by Mr. Niall Kelly and the team and we will be in a better position to report at that point. A series of open issues will elucidate the answer to that question.

Mr. Barrett does not agree with that statement.

Mr. John Barrett

I am offering a conditional response. I am neither agreeing or disagreeing. More information is required. I have a bit part in this. I took a look at two reports, from 2008 and 2010. I was alarmed and on foot of that, I reported.

We will get back to Mr. Barrett.

On page 19 the report states:

It is noted however that the then Head of Legal Affairs on 11th September 2009 in a letter to the then Chief Administrative Officer advises on the Garda College Sportsfield Company Ltd that the separate identity in law can be assumed. No such legal identity exists for the Garda College Restaurant or the Garda College Shop which were never incorporated.

They were dealing with the staff issues. It then states that Exchequer funds were transferred to a private company outside the control of the Garda. It is the same point as the boat club. The report then poses the question: who authorised these transfers? That is why this is an interim report. Does the Commissioner know at this stage?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No and as the Deputy said, this is an interim report and Mr. Barrett makes a valid point. We cannot identify what all the issues are without the audit report being completed and without the work Mr. Kelly is doing being completed. I am sure that will answer some of the further questions.

What is the timeline for the completion of the report?

Mr. Niall Kelly

What is presented in this report is an overview across all the issues over the past six or seven years. I intend to look at specific areas and go deeper and longer in respect to specific areas from this report. There will be several reports on specific areas.

They will be done in parallel. Page 23 relates to the bar accounts. The second last paragraph states:

At a meeting with the accountant, he indicated that he had done some of the preliminary work on these accounts but he would be reluctant to give an audit opinion on the accounts from 2010 onwards...As this work is awaiting completion, the accounts or records of the college bar were not audited from 2010 to 2013.

Is an audit under way on those? Will that be subject to an internal audit?

Mr. Niall Kelly

It may be. Effectively between 2010 and 2013, there was not a lot of activity in the bar in that there were very few students during that period. It is something that we will think about and will probably delve into further.

The credit union seems to have gifted the restaurant a considerable amount during the moratorium to keep the restaurant going. There are four sums of €100,000 each on different dates. The Central Bank has a regulatory role in respect of credit unions. Is the bank engaged with St. Raphael's Garda credit union? Has it examined any of this?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

St. Raphael's Garda credit union is an independent entity and, therefore, it does not come under An Garda Síochána.

But it is referred to in this report.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Without being certain on this, it is possible that what we are talking about is return on investments. That particular transfer may be related to that. I cannot confirm that but it is possible.

It is money that went to the restaurant, which comes under An Garda Síochána. The miraculous keeping of the restaurant open would have been made possible by these transfers. I am sure they had to show up somewhere because there was a receipt there that there has to be an explanation for.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

On the bank account transfers from the credit union to the restaurant account, my point is that this may well have been - it is something that will have to be looked at more forensically - surplus funds that had been invested in the credit union and were being returned to the restaurant. As we get into the moratorium where the restaurant activity has diminished, the process of funding it was through the surpluses that had been accumulated. It is possible that what we are seeing here is the return of other moneys that had just been in investment accounts at that time.

Mr. Niall Kelly

For clarification, the money that was moved into the credit union was surpluses from the restaurant account that had been made during the boom and then were being moved back again when the receipts in the restaurant were low and it was losing money.

With regard to the EU funds, the report shows some double counting and money had to be repaid. Has that been fully repaid? Is that an issue outside Templemore? Is that the only body in receipt of EU funding under the Garda?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Some other programmes might be funded from EU sources but the majority of the EU-funded programmes have a connection with Templemore in some way or other.

Is there any suspicion of double counting elsewhere in respect of European funds?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I am not aware of any.

With regard to the Sportsfield account, we are told that the holding of directorships is prohibited for land. Has that been fully resolved or are there conveyancing issues? How is it being worked out?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

There have been discussions at two levels - first, with the OPW in respect of these issues and, second, following a recent discussion with the directors of Sportsfield, we have agreed that all the lands in which Sportsfield has an interest will be in State control, in other words, in the control of the OPW. We just need to work out the process. The issue is about process rather than about whether it is happening or not.

Is Mr. Nugent sure all lands can be transferred?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

The directors have said they wish to divest themselves of any interest in lands. That is what-----

Is Mr. Nugent certain that they will able to do that?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Not at this point, one way or the other, but I am confident that the directors believe and wish-----

Wishing and being able are two totally different things.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Their desire is that in accordance with the recommendation in the report, all the lands would return to State control.

I suspect they will not.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I would like to confirm there is no dispute. The land belongs to the State. It is important to provide assurance to the committee. My understanding very clearly from both the audit report and from my briefings is that nobody is suggesting that anybody other than the State owns the land. There is no question about the title of the land. This funding model developed from the time the college transferred to Tipperary in the 1960s. There is an important context there. A funding model was developed which certainly by today's standards would not be acceptable. The Commissioner was not then the Accounting Officer and, therefore, several other parties were cited in respect of this model, which was put in place over time, and because of that model, different practices developed. Going back to the Vice Chairman's question, it is important that we get to understand this. As a trained investigator, I always look for the evidence trail. We have to establish the facts. As of this moment, as has been identified by the committee, the facts have not been fully established and, therefore, we are not in a position to assess what is there.

We need some clarity. I did not hear anybody raise the issue of title or ownership of the land. The issue is entering into a leasing arrangement through which revenue was generated and the legality of that, how that happened and so on. With all due respect, it would be more beneficial if the Commissioner answered the questions that are put.

I am also troubled by the Commissioner's comments.

There have been several references to the information in the report not having been properly tested, which could suggest the Commissioner does not accept the internal audit report.

In fairness, Deputy Catherine Murphy needs to conclude.

I have a number of other questions but I would like to hear the issue I raised addressed. I did not mention ownership and I did not hear anybody else mention it either. The report does not dispute ownership. It is the directorships and the mechanism used that is at issue.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

That is a separate issue. As I said, the chief administrative officer is actively working on resolving those issues. We are confident that they will be resolved.

Of the 19 recommendations contained in the interim report, progress is being made on some of them. What is outstanding and what is the timeline?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Eight of them have been implemented in full. I am happy to have the head of internal audit confirm that. In terms of the remainder, we are in the process of formalising them. I would like to see the majority of them dealt with by the middle of this year, but the chairman has raised some complicators that will make that difficult. However, that is the target we have set for ourselves to achieve. The purpose of the target is to ensure they are delivered. While we are going to try to deliver on that target, there is concern that the matter will not be resolved. We continue to work on all the outstanding issues and we have provided the committee with the current progress on each of the individual recommendations.

I welcome the witnesses. The Commissioner referenced in her opening remarks that this has been ongoing since the 1980s. It is easy for all of us on this side of the room and others in the public domain to question the manner in which moneys were spent by the Garda training college and how it was run. We can agree that it was in 2006 that it was first identified that there was a problem in terms of whether the college was compliant with accountancy rules inflicted upon all agencies of the State by various Departments. In regard to the unfinished audit report presented in 2006, which I understand referenced finance directorate reports, the interim report states "which uncovered discrepancies in compliance with public finance procedures". Why in the Commissioner's view did it take nine years for the Garda to do something about it?

Mr. Kelly mentioned that he commenced his employment with An Garda Síochána in 2008.

Mr. Niall Kelly

It was 2007.

His role in the initial phases of his employment was, I assume, to establish the department-section and put in place necessary procedures.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Taking into consideration the constraints within An Garda Síochána post the commencement of his employment, it was probably very difficult for him to get the personnel to support him in that role. Am I correct in saying that from a professional standpoint he was a one-man operation?

Mr. Niall Kelly

No. The staff complement is 11 but we have never actually had 11 staff.

Please explain.

Mr. Niall Kelly

We started hiring people and then the embargo hit so we never achieved a full staff complement. When the embargo was lifted more staff were recruited. The current complement of staff is eight.

Do all those individuals have competent qualifications and-or experience?

Mr. Niall Kelly

There are two qualified accountants within that staff and two assistant principal officers, all of whom are experienced and have received training through courses in the Institute of Public Administration, IPA and the Institute of Internal Auditors.

Given all that expertise is now within the section, from 2006, when the first unfinished audit raised issues, to 2008 when, through the finance directorate report, other issues were raised, why was it only determined in 2016 that these issues were of such gravity that political decisions, and decisions of the chief administrative officer of the organisation, were required to allow Mr. Kelly to carry out an audit of the activities in Templemore?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I was asking questions in 2008 and 2009 but I was not getting answers. In March 2011, in relation to the 2010 accounts, I got assurances that issues were being addressed. What happened in 2011 was that effectively the college closed and there was very little activity. Between 2011 and 2014, if I had gone to audit I probably would not have found anything because effectively we were doing nothing. In 2014-2015 these issues started arising again. In 2016, we were brought in to do the audit.

I thank Mr. Kelly. There was a brief moment earlier when many Deputies weighed in on the issue of land. Mr. Nugent opened that door, whether intentionally or otherwise I do not know. When we were talking about the farm, Mr. Nugent used the word "transfer" in relation to, presumably, Office of Public Works, OPW, purchased land. The Commissioner mentioned at the beginning of this discussion that rents were paid directly to, I think, the OPW, but that stopped and they ended in the various entities within Templemore. Mr. Nugent said that happened to "some" rather than "all" the lands. I am not specifically referring to the farm. In regard to Sportsfield Company Limited land, it was stated that the members of that company wish to divest themselves of the ownership of land. Does that include all lands - as I said, I am not just referring to the farm - included in the limited entity that is the Sportsfield company?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

The directors of Sportsfield have confirmed that to me.

Therefore, every square inch-----

Mr. Joseph Nugent

It includes any interests in relation to land which it has a right to give up. The company is saying that it has no interest in the land and it is happy that its interests would transfer to the Office of Public Works.

Mr. Kelly has been in his current role since 2007. Has he unearthed any documentation - Mr. Barrett weighed in on this matter earlier - which would lead him to believe there has been any illegal activity, criminal or otherwise, in respect of Exchequer funding, be that in the accounts of private organisations under the control of members of An Garda Síochána or in accounts that are directly in the control of An Garda Síochána?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Have I uncovered illegal practices? No. In regard to Deputy Cullinane's opening remarks regarding maladministration, however, yes, and failures to implement recommendations of previous reports, yes.

I think the Deputy said sloppy practices; I would say maybe irregular practices, but at this point there is no evidence of illegality having been uncovered.

If funds were transferred to various entities and used for keeping the restaurant going, paying additional staff or perhaps keeping the bar open during the period when the training element in Templemore was no more, would that fall under what Mr. Kelly defines as maladministration from an accountancy perspective?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I would think so, yes.

Mr. Ruane-----

I seek clarity on a matter. Earlier Mr. Kelly talked about his audit team. How many people are on that audit team?

Mr. Niall Kelly

There are currently eight.

Is that for the whole of An Garda Síochána?

Mr. Niall Kelly

It is for the whole of An Garda Síochána.

How much is your total budget?

Mr. Niall Kelly

My budget for-----

What is the Garda budget - €1.7 billion or something?

Mr. Niall Kelly

It is €1.6 billion.

It is €1.6 billion. What is the approved complement of the audit team?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I should have 11; I have eight at the moment.

We are going through one of the biggest issues we have ever seen affecting the Garda. The audit team is meant to be 11. The Commissioner has said that obviously this is a critical issue and that they are going to get to bottom of it. We have seen that there is a lack of documentation. We have seen that there is a very tight team of only eight people. Why is the complement of 11 not bigger?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Perhaps I might assist in discussions with Mr. Kelly and indeed the CAO. We have recently approved the increase in the strength, but it is extremely difficult for us to get civilian staff. We have a number of layers that we must go through. We have recently approved an increase in the strength beyond the 11 up to 12 and, indeed, in recent discussions up to 16 to allow the work get completed. The chief administrative officer is working very closely with the Policing Authority trying to expedite getting the staff.

I thank the Commissioner. It seems extraordinary that in May 2017 it is eight, given what has transpired and given that the Commissioner has been aware of this since 2015.

We have just been discussing the maladministration of public funds. Has Mr. Kelly at any point sought legal advices as to whether he might come across something in the future? Mr. Barrett was very specific in his terminology, which is appreciated, in terms of his view in saying, "No, nothing has happened." Has Mr. Kelly sought any advices from Mr. Ruane or others in regard to the steps he has to take in order to ensure that no money had been used for any purposes other than the purpose intended?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I will answer that question. Mr. Ken Ruane has been crucial to the actual writing of this report. Right through the report and the audit work, we have sought his advice on a range of issues and we will continue to do that in the work that we plan to do into the future.

Has the Commissioner sought to ensure from a legal perspective or has she asked that question or instructed Mr. Ruane to provide or procure legal advices in that regard?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

If the issue arises, certainly, Mr. Ruane is in a position to provide advices and indeed we have provision there that we can seek external advices if the need arises.

Collectively at this point Mr. Kelly has not unearthed any criminal or illegal activity, but he is not done. That is effectively the answer.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

One specific incident is very glaring. It is probably quite small money, but it is very troubling given that An Garda Síochána did it. The Garda Vote provides for Templemore a sum of money, as I understand it, for laundry services and-or supplementary food in the canteen or the mess, whatever they refer to it as. For a period of time the college in Templemore was charging for the laundry service which led to large sums of money being accrued, which in turn led to money being transferred all over the place up to and including investment accounts and all the rest of it.

One of the troubling aspects of all of that, apart from it being unacceptable either from an accounting perspective or from a moral one, is that the moneys that were then transferred to the Sportsfield then ended up being transferred in the amount of €100,000 to the Garda Boat Club. As stated in the interim report, the Garda Boat Club is a private organisation. The report was very specific about who is in it. It states that it is run by current and former staff and their families. I have no problem with that. I looked it up online and see it was established in 1954. The website lists the committee, captains and all the rest of it. It is a fairly open and transparent organisation from its public perspective.

However, €100,000 was sent to a private institution and those who run it are not auditable or answerable to the Commissioner or anybody else for that matter. The biggest issue I have with that is that those are public funds in a private organisation. There is a term for that and it begins with an "e". I looked up the definition of that.

Embezzlement.

Embezzlement. I have no doubt in my mind - or at least I hope so - that individuals using that money were using it for gardaí, former gardaí and all the rest of it. The bottom line is that it is public money. Its source is profits in various organisations, rent being procured - to which I will return in a minute - from a site owned by the State with the money originally being paid directly into the Garda accounts, but subsequently not - as the Commissioner identified. Who controls the limited organisation that is the boat club? Has the €100,000 been returned? I believe that was transferred between 2000 and 2003. Assume the answer is "No" and that it was spent.

We are discussing whether any illegal activity has taken place and when I raise something that is in the Garda's own report, the witnesses cannot guarantee me anything. We do not know that that €100,000 went to the personal enrichment of current or former gardaí, family members or anybody else for that matter because it went to a private organisation. None of the witnesses can answer that question, which is very disappointing. It is contained in a Garda interim auditor's report. This is the Committee of Public Accounts. The witnesses have answered questions over which they cannot stand because they do not know. I do not know if there is a question in there that the witnesses can answer - or even a remark.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

We have used the word "irregular" and that is where we need to stay at the moment. The assistant commissioner, Mr. O'Driscoll, is undertaking this fact-finding piece to establish whether further investigations are required. I would be more comfortable-----

Does Mr. Nugent have a time period for it?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

It will be within the next few weeks and I mean weeks. I am talking about-----

Will it be before the end of June?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Yes.

Before the end of June we will be able to distinguish between the words "irregular" and "illegal".

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I was distinguishing between the words "irregular" and "embezzlement". That is all I was trying to-----

They are close; they are first cousins.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

All I am saying is that is where we are. In relation to the Deputy's comment, we will make sure that in advance of our appearance the next day, the AC's report will be made available to the committee.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I would just like to make a point because I am conscious of the caution the Vice Chairman gave to everybody beforehand. As he quite rightly said and to be fair to individuals who are not present and to be fair to individuals who may well be able to be identified from the content of the interim audit report, I must emphasise that it is an interim audit report. To be fair and for the purpose of clarity, this is an interim audit report. If at any stage we had identified or had suspicion of any illegality from the content of what we have at the moment, that would be dealt with in a different way.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

At the moment that has not been identified.

Of all people in this room, I understand Standing Orders very well in terms of that matter.

We all can.

The Vice Chairman can also.

I am not casting aspersions on any individual, especially not those who the audit report identifies as being members of the boating club. I am just saying that if it is not in controller view as the accounting officer, where is it? I think Mr. Fachtna Murphy was Commissioner in 2010. I looked up the definition and I can ask Mr. Ruane and-or Mr. Kelly to define embezzlement in the context of accountancy but we all know what it means. It does not necessarily infer certain things. It means "misappropriation of funds placed in one’s trust or belonging to one’s employer" and that is exactly what we are talking about. That is the definition of embezzlement in the Collins online dictionary.

Last question.

: I will conclude at this point. I have a number of questions about the funding that was being provided to An Garda Síochána at Templemore through one of its entities from the farm – the rent that was being paid, which I think was €25,000. The Commissioner opened the door with regard to the fact that some of that money was being paid directly to the OPW. For whatever reason, and perhaps the Commissioner knows and could identify it, when did that money stopped being paid to the OPW and why did the OPW not ask why it was not getting the €25,000 per year it was supposed to get? I am not sure whether the Commissioner can answer that question. Where did the money go in terms of the intended recipient? I know it ended up in the restaurant account, the sports field account or one of those accounts. Did nobody ask any questions? How did it happen that this sum of money on an accumulated basis was sent around all sorts of different organisations? Was Mr. Kelly aware of where the rent paid from that farm was going bearing in mind when that farm was purchased? What did he do to highlight the fact that the money was or was not being sent to the appropriate accounts and-or offset against the Vote budget passed by these Houses? I will start with the Commissioner and come back to Mr. Kelly.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

The Deputy is asking a fundamental question. I will provide some history first. We have recently established records which show an auctioneer in the Templemore area sending rent on the land to the Commissioner of Public Works in 2007. In his report, Mr. Kelly confirmed that the specific part of the OPW did not have records associated with that receipt. The next period we have is the return of the next set of lands. We understand there was a subsequent lease. We do not know why that happened and why money was sent to the Commissioner of Public Works in 2007 and then stopped. We do not know why that did not raise a red flag. In Mr. Kelly's report, we have not been able to discover the records on the OPW's side in respect of that matter. That is a difficulty for us at the moment. It is not easy for us to provide all the information Deputy Farrell is looking for.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The important part is the determination to get to the bottom of it. As we said from the outset, there are other parties outside An Garda Síochána involved in this and because of the very complex and convoluted arrangements that were in place across the OPW and various Government Departments, we have to go outside our availability of documentation to fill in some of the gaps.

Is An Garda Síochána getting full co-operation from agencies like the OPW?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I am absolutely certain we will.

Mr. Niall Kelly

It is important that I answer the very specific question asked by Deputy Farrell. The answer is "No". I was not aware until I started the audit in respect of these transfers of moneys.

Can I ask one small question?

Very quickly.

Will the Commissioner tell me whether it is within An Garda Síochána's Vote, budget or authority to bring in individuals if it cannot find or hire them for Mr. Kelly? Can it bring in personnel?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

We must go through a procedure and process. If I explain it because I know that it gets-----

I think this might be one of those occasions where the Commissioner has to do that.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

For example, we have identified a number of civilian positions we want to fill, including the internal audit positions in Mr. Kelly's unit. We must first get sanction from the Department of Justice and Equality which must get sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. We must also engage with the Policing Authority around the job descriptions, role profiles, etc. There is then a series of sequences. Mr. Nugent is working very closely with the Policing Authority in an effort to identify not just the internal audit positions but the other civilian positions. Deputy Catherine Murphy identifies a really important thing. For years, An Garda Síochána has had to work on what I would call a 1940s architecture trying to modernise an organisation. The practices are not good enough. As members of An Garda Síochána, we are all trained police officers. We are not trained administrators. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked a question about training which I do not think I completed. In respect of the assurances we need to give to the committee, the Deputy asked a specific question. The Institute of Public Administration is training all of our people in proper financial management procedures and this will continue as part of the ongoing training requirements bringing people up to date with best governance practices.

I respect the processes An Garda Síochána is going through but I suppose the real question is why it did not start a couple of years ago.

I thank the Commissioner and the rest of the witnesses. I was a bit late and the Commissioner was in midstream delivering her opening statement so I probably missed some of the introductions. There are 16 people in the room. We will not go through them all but could Mr. Barrett give me his title and role?

Mr. John Barrett

I am the executive director of human resources and people development.

Within the Garda?

Mr. John Barrett

Yes.

Mr. John Barrett

Since 3 October 2015.

If any phones are switched on, can they be turned off?

As mine is in airplane mode, it could not be mine. Mr. Kelly is the head of audit and was the head of audit for one of the Departments previously.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I was.

We have the deputy commissioner, the Commissioner and the chief administrative officer for the entirety of An Garda Síochána.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Since August 2016.

Does the deputy commissioner have specific authority for the college?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

No, I do not. It used to be assigned to my side of the house. There was a reorganisation of our chart arising out of the modernisation and renewal programme and this now sits under-----

When did that change take place?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

We introduced the new set up in September last year. Prior to that, training would have fitted under that side of the house.

Will Mr. Ruane tell me his title and role?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

I am head of legal services.

Mr. Ruane is effectively a lawyer.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

I am. I am a qualified solicitor.

Is Mr. Ruane based in Phoenix Park?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Yes.

What is Mr. Culhane's title and role?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I am executive director of finance and services.

Therefore, Mr. Culhane is not a member of the force? Listening to the evidence, we see a highlighting of problems in 2006. It came up in different places. Mr. Kelly said that at one stage, the Commissioner wrote to the then head of administration to say that An Garda Síochána had to deal with it and send it to the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and the Comptroller and Auditor General. We all seem to have established that this did not happen. We do not know why that happened and who to blame pending ongoing investigations by Mr. Kelly and Mr Barrett. Is that a fair assessment of where we are so far?

Mr. John Barrett

Yes. It is a qualified "Yes".

I like Mr. Barrett's qualifications for now. We do not know that yet. The Commissioner said that she is asking whether there are reasonable grounds to support the contention that a crime has been committed. She said that her view, which was demonstrated to Mr. Barrett, was "No". Mr. Barrett has said that it is neither "Yes" or "No" pending further investigations. Is that also the case?

Mr. John Barrett

Yes. Without interrupting, I would say that the standard of criminality is a much higher bar than what would be regarded as appropriate to governance and due and proper probative administration.

Mr. John Barrett

There are people better qualified than me to make a judgment on the criminality.

Mr. John Barrett

The concerns that are exercising my mind revolve around the appropriate standards for accounting and administration in the Garda college.

Of course, which would be the same for my business or-----

Mr. John Barrett

Yes.

That much was clear. We will not know whether other more prescriptive acts such as embezzlement come into play until much later date, if at all. In Mr. Barrett's experience, and in the knowledge he is only there since 2015, does he think the balance of probability, notwithstanding the fact he likes to qualify his answers, which is okay for now because we need to get more information-----

Mr. John Barrett

Sure.

-----is that somewhere between 2006 and the Commissioner writing to whomever to have this pass the Garda internal audit service and the Comptroller and Auditor General, somebody somewhere yet to be named, or nameable even, took the view to sit on this because it made the Garda look bad?

Mr. John Barrett

I cannot really offer any valuable view on this until the point it came to my attention, which was in June 2015. I inquired about a certain mid-year set of numbers in the Garda college relating to overtime and how we were managing. On foot of that, certain numbers were given to me that did not make a lot of sense and then I made some further inquiries. On foot of that I became aware of the 2008 report of the finance directorate and I read it. My response at that point in time was to call the then chief administrative officer and discuss it with him. I made certain he got a copy of this and we discussed it together.

Just so we are clear, that is not-----

Mr. John Barrett

That is not this gentleman, no. It was a gentleman called Cyril Dunne.

Mr. John Barrett

Then we became aware of a 2010 report following on from the 2008 report and we sat and discussed that. That was the tail end of June 2015. Mr. Dunne asked me to write a summary report at that point, a synopsis of the issues arising in both reports. That is what I did and that is the document of 6 July 2015.

Which we have asked Mr. Barrett to circulate and which he will do electronically.

Mr. John Barrett

That will come.

Mr. John Barrett

That is the point at which I entered the fray, and much like the newbies in the room I am looking backwards seeking to get context.

I understand, but if we had to make an interim qualified judgment based on information available to us now, without pointing the finger at any individual, and even in the knowledge that individual may never be in a position to be named because the investigation may just not turn up who it was, would it appear, in Mr. Barrett experience, that somebody somewhere took the view and said, "let us sit on this because it could make us look bad"?

Mr. John Barrett

The Deputy asked the question in the context of the balance of probabilities. I think the history speaks for itself, quite frankly. This thing was visible for a period long before my becoming aware of it.

Indeed, there is no finger of blame on Mr. Barrett.

Mr. John Barrett

I understand that.

I am just simply using the benefit of Mr. Barrett's expertise to draw a conclusion of my own.

The Deputy might let Mr. Barrett-----

Mr. John Barrett

I must give a context because I am a relatively new public servant and I am conscious that I am meeting the elected representatives. My background is in the private sector, with 25 years in US multinational firms. I come at this without all the nuances of the public service. My reading of these documents may be different from others in the organisation for a lengthy period of time. Earlier, I used the word "alarmed", which I was, simply because in the world in which I previously lived matters like this would be corrected much more expeditiously. I did not really have the necessary understanding and, to a significant degree, we are dependent on what remains to be done by Mr. Kelly.

Being a new civil servant, does Mr. Barrett have a sense that sometimes within the Civil Service generally the default position is "we are right and they are wrong".

Mr. John Barrett

The Deputy is putting words in my mouth.

No, I am not. It it a question.

Mr. John Barrett

It is a question.

Therefore, "No" is an answer just as much as "Yes".

Mr. John Barrett

Sure. Let me answer the question in the context of this particular information. I read it in its totality. It touched on what I consider to be a number of governance issues, leaving aside all issues of criminality and fundamental accounting issues, and I raised them because, quite frankly, in their totality they addressed what I would consider to be fundamental issues in the way in which we account for public funds.

What percentage of the Commissioner's time and that of her senior management, including deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners, is at this time devoted to non-core policing activity?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I suppose it depends on what the Deputy defines as core policing activity.

I suppose catching the bad guys.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

We have significant challenges from a volume crime, organised crime and terrorism perspective, so a considerable portion of my time is dedicated to doing this. A considerable portion of my time is also dedicated to managing and putting in place the modernisation and reform necessary to provide governance assurances throughout the organisation, so it is mixed.

Will the Commissioner make a stab at the percentage breakdown? Is 50% of her time taken up with managing legacy structural deficiencies and 50% focused on catching the bad guys, including complex international terrorism co-operation and the day-to-day criminality we all know of?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The role of An Garda Síochána and my role as Commissioner of An Garda Síochána is to ensure we provide a service to the public. Part of this is keeping communities safe. It is my job to ensure the necessary structures and practices are in place, so the threats posed by organised crime, terrorism and volume crime, and public safety issues that impact on everybody's day-to-day living priorities are priorities for An Garda Síochána. I am also very focused on ensuring we deal with a number of issues that are historic in nature but nevertheless identify where there are weak practices and bad practices in the organisation. In doing that we also identify good practice and we make sure we shine a light on both. There are good practices we have identified, and we make sure we put things in place to bring these forward. Very important, in the context of the issues we are discussing here today, is where we identify issues such as we have identified here, we bring them to the fore and we make sure they are addressed, as in this case. It is very important that we provide assurances to the committee and, by extension, to the public that actually we are not being remiss in doing this. As soon as we became aware of these issues in 2015 they were immediately addressed, and we are actively engaging to ensure the recommendations highlighted in Mr. Kelly's report, albeit an interim report, are being fully implemented. I have no doubt that as Mr. Kelly's work continues other issues will be identified, and we will also address these and deal with them. I would like to provide assurances to the committee that we take this extraordinarily seriously. The executive team is making sure all the issues are being addressed, but we have line managers who do the day-to-day business in this regard.

The Commissioner knows the question I am asking. Would she be better sitting down with all the chief superintendents and the assistant commissioners to deal with core policing matters such as traffic management, terrorism and Border controls? She is in here probably as often as the CEO of the HSE. Would it be better if she did not have to do any of these things? I asked for a proportionate breakdown. I do not consider this the Commissioner's core business, as a layman in the street, but it is taking up a lot of time. I am just trying to get a picture, for the people reading the transcript or watching this, of what proportion of the Commissioner's time is dedicated to firefighting, for want of a better expression, based on legacy structural deficiencies?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

A significant portion of my time.

Would it be fair to say it would be better if the Commissioner did not have to do this?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No, to be fair what I would say is that as Accounting Officer I have a duty to account here to the Committee of Public Accounts. I have a duty to make sure I provide assurances on the governance of the organisation and I also have to balance this with my duty to ensure that we provide safety and a safe environment for our communities.

How many uniformed gardaí are carrying out work that, to quote the Commissioner from earlier in terms of the legacy issues, in real terms is not their core business or is not core to the training provided to them in Templemore or through on the job continuous professional development training?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I am delighted the Deputy has asked this question because it is something on which we have been working very hard. Going back over the years, we identified a number of positions we wanted to civilianise for the very reasons Deputy Murphy said, and get suitably qualified professional civilian members into the organisation to do this work.

Recently I tasked the deputy commissioner with this. It has taken us an extraordinary length of time, despite the fact we have a HR section which is headed up by a civilian manager. It is taking us a long time to get a workforce plan in place to do exactly what the Deputy has identified, to gauge specifically the number of people. I tasked the deputy commissioner with conducting a census across the organisation to identify that. I will now ask him to talk specifically to that issue.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

That piece of work started in February and we picked one day where we looked at our databases to see where all personnel were assigned on that particular day on the system. That did not necessarily mean this was where they were. For some reason or another they may have been temporarily transferred to another duty or they may have been taken off the front line to perform some vital and critical administrative function in the absence of civilian staff to do that particular work. At this early stage the data are just coming in and are being cleaned in respect of going in to each of our divisions and districts, working with that original spreadsheet and then finding out exactly what everyone was doing on that day. We hope to be able to present, in the next week or so, a detailed breakdown of what we would call the low-hanging fruit. This would be the people who could immediately be transferred to the front line if we get civilian help in to replace them because they are doing vital work for us. That runs to at least 200 personnel at this juncture but there is still more work to be done on this.

There is another tranche of people who are doing administration work, but they may be on restricted duties because of sickness or health issues. It is important for the organisation to make sure those personnel are used and that we get best value for money out of those people, who want to come to work. We must put them in a position that will not put their health in danger.

There is another cohort of people who would traditionally have been assigned to offices. Consider, for example, a district superintendent's office in the country. Traditionally a Garda clerk would have been assigned to that superintendent. We have to ask if this is still the position and do we still need a garda doing that work. More in-depth work must be done on this issue because there are many views around it such as the view that a Garda perspective is needed in that role. If we have civilians coming in at the bottom rung, they can work their way through the organisation and there is no reason why, in time, those positions could not also be civilianised. It is not going to happen overnight, it will be a challenge but we can see that it can be done in phases.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

That process looks at the people we have in place currently, but in our restructuring of the organisation we have also identified where we want to employ additional civilian staff. I will give a real live current example. Tomorrow we will be working with the Policing Authority, which has taken over responsibility in this area, to short-list for the head of a strategic transformation office. This post is at executive director level and is the equivalent of assistant commissioner. We have also identified other senior civilian positions.

I do not mean to cut the Commissioner off but can she indicate how many?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

At the moment there are-----

I know that the process is not finished but the witnesses mentioned a figure of 200.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

There are 200 personnel who could be moved to the front line immediately if we got the civilian help to replace them.

That just leaves the people who might be ill or whatever who have to be kept?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Yes. There could be another 800 who have already been identified by the Policing Authority who are in receipt of clerical allowance. This would indicate that they are in offices and these would be the people who traditionally took up the role of clerk.

Is that around 5% to 7%?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

It is about 1,000. We are currently at a strength of 13.5% of the uniformed personnel.

I am nearly finished now. With regard to the members of An Garda Síochána who have gone off of their own accord to study law or other things, is there a practice within the force to tap into that resource? If a garda had been assigned to Pearse Street Garda Station, had studied law and was called to the Bar, is he or she being kept on the beat or is it recognised that the garda has expertise and use could be made of that person? Is this done in respect of gardaí who may have studied accountancy to put them, for example, into a role to assist Mr. Kelly? Is there a practice or procedure along those lines?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes. Over the years there was a practice that recognised people who had certain qualifications. The moratorium on recruitment, especially on civilian recruitment, meant we were not able to get civilian staff in all the way back to 1996. By necessity, members of An Garda Síochána who had specific qualifications or who had skilled themselves up in certain areas were brought in to fill critical gaps in the organisation. Working with the Policing Authority, we are now making sure we identify the skill sets we require in the organisation and then we look to hire suitably qualified professional civilians.

When the Commissioner is finished this body of work to put personnel out on to the front line in the mainstream policing, as the public might judge it, are the resources available to recruit the necessary civilian staff into these roles? In the absence of these resources, can the Commissioner be confident about that in her role as Accounting Officer?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I would be very confident if we were to get the proper structure we have identified for the organisation. As I said to Deputies Cullinane and McDonald earlier, we are running a 21st century organisation on an 1940s architecture. We identified a structure we want to change and we have identified the positions and types of skill sets we need to change and modernise the organisation. I would be very happy if we could fill those positions much more speedily than we currently manage to do.

Is the Commissioner's answer to the resources query "I do not know"?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I do know. I know that if we had additional, suitably qualified, professional staff at a much speedier rate-----

I know, but are the resources being made available to An Garda Síochána to back that up?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It takes a long time.

As an executive summary, would the Commissioner be in a better position to be a better Accounting Officer if she had those resources?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It would certainly help my job on many fronts if I was to have professionally skilled resources in a number of areas.

In terms of the Vote of €1.503 billion in 2015 - it is a bit higher now - is the Government saying to An Garda Síochána that when it gets the job done with the 200 or 300 people, it will give it resources to recruit the required professional staff? Has the Commissioner been given that undertaking?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

It was a Government decision to provide for the recruitment of 500 civilian staff this year. We have capacity but the issue is time.

I thank the witnesses.

I thank the witnesses. We will return to that when the representatives are back in front of us. I am sure they are looking forward to it.

Tá sé beagáinín deireanach san oíche céad míle fáilte a chur roimh na finnéithe, ach tá céad míle fáilte rompu. Tá sé deas ceathrar ban a fheiceáil, i gcodarsnacht le Bord na gCon inniu nuair nach raibh bean le feiceáil. Is rud maith é sin.

By the looks of things we are not getting to the appropriation account at all. Will we get a chance to come back to it?

Yes, on 13 July.

I welcome the witnesses to the committee. It is a very worthwhile exercise. I believe that most people want to respect the Garda and want to work with it. In my time as a local councillor our biggest problem was getting Governments to realise that more resources should be put into An Garda Síochána in order that it could work with us and we could see community gardaí on the ground. I wish I was going through this account with the representatives today and asking them about community policing and the Garda stations throughout the country, especially in Galway, but unfortunately this interim report is taking up our time. It is most unfortunate. I look forward to the day when we can get back to working with the Garda. I preface my questions to the witnesses by saying that I cycled to the bus station on Tuesday and I had a light on the front and back of my bike.

When this report came out, the Commissioner was quoted in the media in January - please tell me if I am wrong:

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has said there was no misuse of public funds in the management of the Garda College in Templemore. Speaking on RTÉ's "Today with Sean O'Rourke", she was asked about an audit that uncovered financial irregularities ... [The Commissioner said] "My information and what I'm advised is that there is no misappropriation of money or misuse of public monies. I think that's very important. It is accounting practices that by today's standards would not be acceptable, but it does span back and they are legacy issues."

After what we have been through here today and after the report, which I am sure the Commissioner has read, does the Commissioner still stand by that?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I have read it and discussed it in detail with Mr. Niall Kelly, our head of internal audit.

On the basis on what we have discussed today, there were certainly irregularities in the movement of money and the way money was used between accounts.

When the Commissioner made this comment in January, was it not premature as we do not know whether there has been misappropriation of funds? Is that not right?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

As we have identified today, we have not uncovered any evidence to identify misappropriation.

I am not going that road of saying that either. The issue I am putting to Ms O'Sullivan is the question of trust in the Garda Síochána. When this information was published, the Commissioner's immediate comment was there was no misappropriation of money and no misuse of public moneys. Was that not, at the very least, premature?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

That was following my discussions. Having had discussions with the Garda head of internal audit who had prepared the report, I asked whether there was evidence of any misappropriation of money and the answer was "No". There are certainly irregularities around the use and the movement of money.

In respect of Ms O'Sullivan's two quotes, I put it to her that it was premature at the very least and if we want to build confidence, that was not a response at that point. A response at that point would be, "Jesus, look at what is emerging here". The report is damning in my opinion on any level and yet the Commissioner went on Sean O'Rourke's programme to reassure the nation. That is my opinion and she is disagreeing with me. Second, the Commissioner minimised the importance of what happened by referring to it as accounting practices and legacy issues, and unacceptable practices now as opposed to the time it happened. Is that not incorrect as well?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I was speaking in the context of responding to a specific question. What I have said today and what I said then is that it is absolutely unacceptable by today's standards.

No. Will the Commissioner please listen to me? She may disagree with my understanding of what she did. She minimised what happened by saying that it is not acceptable by today's standards. This report shows that it was not acceptable by the standards operative at the point in time it happened. Is that not right?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I agree with the Deputy. I do not want to be at odds with Deputy Connolly so let me clarify further. We are not disagreeing and at no stage did I try or attempt to - and it was not my intention to attempt to minimise the issue.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The issue was extremely grave and that is why in July 2015 when it was brought to my attention I immediately took action on it.

The Commissioner has had her chance. Ms O'Sullivan may disagree with me but I have listened to the proceedings, I have read the statement and I have read a previous briefing statement that we got yesterday as well. It seems to me that the Commissioner minimised the situation when she should not have. That is not a way to build confidence. I see the Commissioner is disagreeing with me, but that is okay.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It was never my intention to minimise it.

All right. Let us look at the report of February 2017. It has already been pointed out by my colleague that the instinctive reaction of a Commissioner, not to mention any other obligations on an officeholder, should have been to bring it to the attention of the Comptroller and Auditor General at the point when she became aware of it in July 2015.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I think there are learning opportunities in everything. I think what I would do now certainly would be to involve the Comptroller and Auditor General from an earlier point. At that stage it was not clear whether the Comptroller and Auditor General had been informed - and we now know that the Comptroller and Auditor General had not been informed. Part of the work that was initiated in July 2015 was to establish exactly who had been told about what.

I do not agree with the Commissioner. In view of all of the scandals with the Garda Síochána there was an extra onus on the Commissioner at that point to involve an outside agency of the highest integrity to look at it. Looking at this now, it looks like the Garda were trying to find out the extent of it and trying to contain it rather than accepting it was a complete mess that had continued from 2006. A report on it from 2006 was not completed and the report on it in 2008 was absolutely damning. Does Ms O'Sullivan accept that the report in 2008 was damning?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Absolutely, as I say Deputy it is completely unacceptable.

Let me pose the questions for one moment. If I am being unfair to Ms O'Sullivan, the Chair can tell me.

The Deputy is fine.

There was a damning report in 2008, which Deputy David Cullinane went through forensically on the fact that it was not followed up, which I will revert to. It was a damning report stating that what happened was non-compliant with the regulations at that time, with everything from the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to the obligations under the ethics legislation. Does Ms O'Sullivan accept that?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes, but may I clarify something? I had not seen the 2008 report in 2015.

No, but Ms O'Sullivan saw the interim report that we are discussing.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No, I did not.

Did the Commissioner see in the report in July?

For clarity, did the Commissioner see Mr. Barrett's report?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No, I did not. I want to be clear on that. I did not see Mr. Barrett's report in July.

Was Ms O'Sullivan briefed about Mr. Barrett's report in July?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I was given a brief, and I mean very brief, that issues had been identified. I was not-----

By whom? Who told Ms O'Sullivan?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I was told by the deputy commissioner, who sent me a report from the head of legal affairs. It did not contain Mr. Barrett's report. I think we need to be clear.

But he told Ms O'Sullivan there were serious issues.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

What I was told was that a number of issues had been identified in the college but I was not told the nature and extent of the issues at that time.

When did the Commissioner read the report we have?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

In September 2016.

Did Ms O'Sullivan read the whole report?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

At that stage it was in draft form.

Yes, but it did not change, did it?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No.

I have forgotten my train of thought. The Chair might give me back my train of thought.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

The report that was presented in September 2016 was a draft and it was circulated to those who may have had an interest in the report to establish whether they felt there were certain matters that needed to be addressed. That process took until March 2017 for completion. I hear what the Deputy is saying but one could not be certain at that point, in September, that it might or might not change.

Let me approach it from a different angle. This is the training college, a third level institution, is that not correct?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes.

There would have been the most serious obligations on it. We are training young gardaí for their role as a trusted member of An Garda Síochána who will deal with domestic violence, serious crime and so on. We want to have faith in An Garda Síochána and be able to call on them. They are being trained in the centre in Templemore where these practices are looked on as normal. Has that not the most serious implications for the gardaí that we are turning out and did it not?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

As I said in my opening address, the assurances that we can provide to the committee is that we are addressing the issues. The further assurance that we can provide to the committee - and I think this is important - because the Deputy quite rightly identified the importance of the Garda College, the Garda College is a very important and integral part of An Garda Síochána.

Mr. Kelly has identified in his report at point No. 4 that the vast majority - I do not want anybody to interpret my comment as minimising or diminishing it but the reality is that Mr. Kelly can provide us with reasonable assurances - of the staff costs, the management of vehicles, the Garda College imprest account are managed to a high standard and are compliant with the Garda finance code. What we are talking about here is very serious and very grave but it is a portion of the activity at the Garda College.

Mr. Kelly makes four points and Ms O'Sullivan is picking the last point, where only reasonable assurance can be given. In respect of the previous three points, Mr. Kelly can give no assurance in two instances and limited assurance in the third. Ms O'Sullivan instanced the fourth point, where only reasonable assurance can be given.

Let us go back, is it correct that there are 50 accounts?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Not any longer.

We are talking about a period when young gardaí were being trained. There were 50 accounts and it has been identified - Ms O'Sullivan said they would not have had training at that time but they will have training now. In the course of the report, it states the number of accounts that were opened by gardaí who had no training in finance, for example, investment accounts and all sorts of accounts.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

We believe they would have been given some advice regarding the establishment of that. There was an engagement between the Department and An Garda Síochána because some of these accounts go back for very many years.

It has been said repeatedly, in addition to minimising what happened, that this is a legacy issue. The company was not set up until 1993, so let us stop talking about a time earlier than 1993. This audit looks at a period from 2009 onwards. We are not looking at issues prior to that because there are very few records and that is something that is ongoing about which Mr. Kelly presumably will revert to us. We are looking at the period from 2009 onwards. We are looking at a company that was formed in 1992 and 1993 not way back in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s. During that period of time, we were attesting gardaí and yet the witnesses from the Garda Síochána are saying that the gardaí had little training in financial matters. Let us look at page dealing with St. Raphael's credit union, which also lists temporary investment accounts.

Look at the list. It includes Bank of Ireland temporary investment accounts, a Zurich investment policy and so on. There is a huge number of bank accounts. There is Royal mutual investment, New Ireland Assurance and so on. All these accounts have been open. I understand gardaí cannot open accounts without the permission of the Minister for Justice and Equality. Is that correct?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

That is correct.

Okay. Was permission given for all of these accounts by the Minister for Justice and Equality, whoever he or she was?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I did not find it in my audit.

Therefore, there is a breach. We will look at ethics and disclosure, and perhaps Mr. Kelly can help me, because he has set out all this in his report. I refer to page 21. Under the provisions of the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995, officeholders over a certain grade must make certain disclosures and this includes gardaí of the rank of superintendent and above. The second paragraph states that Garda members, including superintendents and chief superintendents, have acted as directors of An Garda Síochána sportsfield since its incorporation in 1993. There is clearly a breach of the Act there.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

To step back-----

To step forward might be-----

Mr. Joseph Nugent

To step back to 1993, they are directors from 1993, prior to the Act itself.

That is right, but after that-----

Mr. Joseph Nugent

My point is that it appears that what happened was a rolling process of people becoming involved. To refer to Mr. Niall Kelly's report, it states there is no evidence of Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO, lodgements.

Wait just one second. This Act came in in 1995. The company was formed in 1993. The company is still in existence. What disclosures have been made in that period of time since that legislation?

Mr. Niall Kelly

The annual accounts were presented and the requirements under the Companies Registration Office rules were kept up to date up to 2014. I did not see them in 2015, but perhaps they had not been completed when I did the audit last year in 2016.

Were conflicts of interest ever disclosed?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Not that I am aware of. In my conversation with the directors, they have indicated - I am not saying this is right or wrong - that they believed that, as they were not in receipt of payment for their directorship, this meant a return was not required. I am not saying that is right or wrong. I am saying that is what they said to me about their position.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I am just offering what I have been told. That is my point.

Going back to why this was not followed up in 2008, we had serious concerns raised in 2006 about obligations. Serious concerns were raised in 2008. It goes so far and no further. I understand the Commissioner endorsed it. Who was the Commissioner at that point in 2008?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The Commissioner was Mr. Fachtna Murphy.

I understand he said these were serious concerns, and then it went back. Nothing happened. We were given a briefing document yesterday about this matter. There is a gap. What were told in the document that we were supplied is that in 2008, An Garda Síochána's finance directorate concluded that there were major concerns. The then Commissioner, Mr. Fachtna Murphy, agreed with the recommendation of the chief administrative officer that a full and comprehensive audit of all financial activities in the college should be undertaken. In September 2009, who was the deputy commissioner with responsibility for the Garda college?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The deputy commissioner was Mr. Nacie Rice.

Deputy Commissioner Rice offered a view to the then Commissioner. How did he offer that view? Was it in writing?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Yes.

Is there a copy of it?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Yes.

Can we have a copy of it, please?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Yes.

We will continue with what he said. He offered the view to the then Commissioner that as the State had not provided money to develop and improve the social and sporting culture of Garda students, the companies and committees identified in the 2008 report were formed as the only means to develop and improve the social and sporting culture of the college. He goes on to say that he further offered the view that there was no suggestion that any funds generated were used for other purposes and that the moneys collected in these funds were contributed either directly or indirectly by members who use the Garda college. We will come back to this deputy commissioner who was in charge of the Garda college which was training young gardaí. This was his view. He offered the strong belief that any surplus money did not belong to the State and could not be used except for the welfare and development of facilities for members at the Garda college. Was that offered in a written report?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

That is correct.

Deputy Commissioner Rice was of the view that this money belonged to the Garda, had nothing to do with the State and was none of its business, and that Governments had failed to fund and resource the Garda; therefore, it was using the money.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I think rather than try to put words into the deputy commissioner's mouth, I would rather stick to this, which is a direct lift from the copy of the report, which we can-----

I am quoting directly from what-----

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I accept that but what I am saying, on the Deputy's question, is that I do not want to go beyond what is said there.

Is it a fair conclusion for me to draw that there was a man of a very high rank disagreeing with the Commissioner and saying he was in charge of the college and that this money belonged to An Garda, despite that it had come from the Government originally?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes. It was a funding model. Although I do not wish to go back, I cannot form a view on the deputy commissioner's view. I do not know what led him to arrive at that view. What we can say is that the documentation we have, as the chief administrative officer provided when compiling this briefing, is a direct lift from the report. That is what we can say. We cannot say what was in his mind at the time.

Am I over the top when I read this and draw the conclusion that it explains why nothing was done between 2008 and a few years later? This is the very reason, because the man in charge of the college said, "Feck off, this is our money", that is, this money is from the Government, through the Vote system.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I would not be happy to come to that conclusion.

Perhaps Mr. Nugent will help me to come to the proper conclusion.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

All I can do is quote directly from the report, which I have said we will make available to the committee. That is what was written in the report. As the Commissioner has said-----

For the purposes of clarity, to which report is Mr. Nugent referring?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

There is a piece of internal correspondence which we have where that strong belief and the material that is referenced there-----

Who wrote it?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

It was written by Deputy Commissioner Rice.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

As the Deputy has asked, we will make that available, but I would not like to explain why he came to that conclusion, the basis for that or even go beyond what the implications of that would be. All I can do is point to that particular document.

Is Deputy Commissioner Rice still with the force?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

No.

That is not in Mr. Niall Kelly's report. He skips a section and says, "the next significant step", and it is not that. Will he explain that to me?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes. I did not find that correspondence in the course of my audit work. I think Mr. Nugent has discovered it relatively recently. I did not see it.

If we look at page 13 of Mr. Kelly's report, in response on 8 May, the then Commissioner agreed, and I have set that out. We move forward. The next significant step is on 10 March. That is a huge gap.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Was Mr. Kelly not aware of Deputy Commissioner Rice's opinion?

Mr. Niall Kelly

No, I was not.

Even though he was in charge of the college?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Even though he was in charge of the college.

Can anybody explain that big gap?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

All we can speak to are the documents which the chief administrative officer recently identified, which set out a view.

If Mr. Kelly had been aware of this, would he have included it in his report?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Has he read it since?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I have briefly seen it. I have not seen all the correspondence.

Why not? Why has he not seen this?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

It was not withheld.

Mr. Niall Kelly

It became known to me only this week in discussions to prepare for this meeting.

We have an interim audit. The reason that it is interim is because there are further serious questions. Is that not right?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

There is a big gap. As I mentioned, Deputy David Cullinane went through this forensically.

I will finish this question as otherwise I will lose my train of thought. Mr. Kelly went through it forensically and then stopped. When I look back over it, however, I find a big gap. The Garda Commissioner says she is taking this seriously, while the head of the college, a deputy commissioner, says it is their money. There is a big gap. Mr. Kelly has produced a serious report, on which I compliment him. He only became aware of this issue this week.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I was only aware of that correspondence this week.

How did Mr. Kelly become aware of it?

Mr. Niall Kelly

In discussions with Mr. Nugent and the Commissioner in preparing for this meeting.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I only became aware of the correspondence very recently also.

Why was the Garda Commissioner in communication with Mr. Kelly and Mr. Nugent in preparing for this meeting? That indicates that witnesses were having discussions about what they might say before they came into a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts. Why would the Commissioner be in discussion with Mr. Kelly and Mr. Nugent?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Because we were preparing for the meeting and issues such as this had been identified since. As Mr. Kelly said, this is an interim audit report; therefore, there is work going on all of the time. That is why the briefing document was sent by Mr. Nugent to the committee. That correspondence that Mr. Nugent has identified had only come to our attention since the completion of Mr. Kelly’s report.

For the purposes of clarity, when did Mr. Nugent become aware of it?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I cannot give an exact date, but it was very recently.

When did the Commissioner become aware of it?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yesterday.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes.

Mr. Kelly became aware of it yesterday also.

Mr. Niall Kelly

It was probably the day before yesterday.

Mr. Kelly said he had become aware of it in discussions with Mr. Nugent and the Commissioner.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

If the Commissioner only became aware of it yesterday, how did Mr. Kelly become aware of it two days ago in a meeting with the Commissioner?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I think I was talking to Mr. Nugent.

There is a contradiction. While it is only one day, there is a contradiction.

Mr. Niall Kelly

We have had a lot of discussions about this. I cannot definitively say it was yesterday or the day before that I first became aware of it, but I did become aware of it in conversations with Mr. Nugent.

We will go back to confidence agus, trí Ghaeilge, ag cothú muiníne i measc an phobail. Ní féidir muinín a chothú i measc an phobail agus na finnéithe ag freagairt mar seo. It is impossible to say we have confidence in the Garda if this is what is happening even now. This issue dates back to 2006. We have the Commissioner's initial statement which I have quoted minimising the issue and saying it was a legacy issue. Then the position changes when we realise it is a very serious and ongoing issue and the internal audit had to continue. Then we have Mr. Barrett telling us it would not have happened in his previous life. It is very serious. How could it happen that this matter was not acted on in 2006 or 2008? Yesterday and the day before the witnesses suddenly became aware that the very high ranking garda in charge had a completely different view from that of the Commissioner. Does the Commissioner understand why my mouth is open?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Absolutely. It is unfortunate and I apologise if I have created a perception that I am minimising this issue. I most certainly am not and want to provide the Deputy and the committee with assurances. I take the issue extremely seriously. In order to provide assurances-----

I do not want assurances; I want the facts and documents. We will then draw our own conclusions. The reason the Commissioner is here is that assurances were given in the past and they have not been acted on. That is why we are here with Mr. Kelly's report.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I tried to highlight it in my opening address as succinctly as possible and I am very happy to go through it with the committee. As I say, in order to provide assurances and maintain the levels of confidence the public and the committee can have in us, we have put a high level steering group together to implement all of Mr. Kelly's recommendations which are being implemented very effectively. We are reporting on a regular basis to the Policing Authority which is also aware of what is going on, the Comptroller and Auditor General and our own audit committee and making sure everybody is sighted on these issues. I apologise to the Deputy if she has the perception that I am minimising the issue - far from it.

I am not asking for an apology. Our role is to hold people to account. We do not want to do this and it would be easier if we did not have to do so, as we say repeatedly when asking questions.

On the leasing out of the farm, I think I was told the acreage, but I have forgotten what it was. How many acres of land are involved?

Mr. John Barrett

It is 254 acres.

They were leased out.

Mr. John Barrett

It is OPW land.

I understand that. What I want to get to is the leasing out, the cost, who valued the land and how the decision was made on the price.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

The records we have-----

I am talking about the lease and getting the money back.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

There is an initial lease where money transfers to the OPW.

I heard all of that.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

The valuation is included.

It does not change after that.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I believe------

There should be no beliefs now. Has it been checked?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I will come back and confirm it.

We do not know if the land was leased out at value for money. We do not know if that is the cost of leasing out land. Is that right? I cannot put this in context.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

As I said, the initial lease was with the Office of Public Works. That is what I can confirm.

As we all need a break at this stage, I propose we suspend the sitting for a short period. A number of Deputies wish to ask further questions. When the meeting resumes, the first speaker will be Deputy Peter Burke who will be followed by Deputy Mary Lou McDonald. I will then ask a number of questions, after which Deputies who have indicated that they wish to contribute a second time may do so.

Sitting suspended at 5.05 p.m. and resumed at 5.25 p.m.

Next to ask his questions is Deputy Peter Burke.

Like previous speakers, I acknowledge the good work the Garda does, often in very challenging circumstances. Obviously, it is unfortunate that we are here discussing a report of this nature. It is very important that An Garda Síochána does not suffer any irregularities, that it is transparent and that it is seen to be so. We must ensure we try to mitigate as much as possible the reputational damage done to the force. The report before us is shocking.

On foot of that, the first question I want to ask concerns risk management procedures. I note on page 16 of the interim audit report that "[t]here was a requirement from 2004 onwards from the Department of Finance for all Votes to have Risk Management Procedures in place" and that this happened from 2010 through Garda management. That is obviously a huge delay. We were giving out earlier about Bord na gCon's delay in its process, but this is not something one would expect in such an advanced force as An Garda Síochána. The final line of the same paragraph reads: "Despite these issues being identified as risks by the Finance Directorate, they were not included in the Garda College Risk Register, the Finance Directorate Risk Register or the Corporate Risk Register." Has this been rectified?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Yes. Since the last day of March this year, we have launched a new risk framework which has been worked on over the past year and a half. Our corporate risk register currently includes matters pertaining to finance and the management of finance. This is a new system which will be cascaded throughout the organisation over the coming weeks, and we hope by year end that we will have a top-down, bottom-up approach to risk management right down to district level. That is what we hope to achieve this year.

My concern in this regard is that the requirement was set out in 2004. This is approximately 13 years late. We are not talking about the dark ages when we talk about 2004. We are talking about a very modern setting. Why was there such a delay in getting around to implementing these issues that are set out by policy?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

As the Deputy stated, the first risk register approach was introduced in An Garda Síochána in 2010. It was brand new to the organisation at that stage and took much time to get bedded in. We did have teething problems with it. We had issues about raising the awareness and establishing it as part of the culture of the organisation, and it was not fit for purpose as such. It was seen as maybe a tick-box exercise, so we needed to renew it, which is what has happened over the past 18 months. We have put much energy and work into it. The system will be tested this year, and we will work very closely with our internal audit and the audit committee, which has seen the system. We made a presentation to the committee at a recent meeting, and it is very happy with it. It looks fit for purpose but it still has to be tested.

However, for a modern police force, does Mr. Ó Cualáin think that delay is acceptable? How can I have confidence that the Garda is able to respond to changes that were required and will be required into the future? Is the Garda able to respond to these changes now?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes, we are. Again, it is very difficult for us to explain what happened before 2014, but that year, on my taking up the position of interim Commissioner and, as such, becoming interim Accounting Officer, I initiated a review of the risk management procedures that were in place. The deputy commissioner led out on it. During that period, working with governance experts, the IPA and others, we have been making sure our risk management practices are up to best practice standards. The new revised procedures that have been put in place have been presented to the audit committee to make sure it is happy with them. My understanding is that the Policing Authority has also been informed of the revised procedures, and we will keep them under review. As I mentioned to Deputy Murphy earlier, we are all engaged with the IPA in providing training to all our managers, both Garda and civilian members, to make sure they are aware of the current practices and governance arrangements.

I will move on. Regarding the report, which cites 50 different accounts, we have a number of what are termed irregular practices, which have been mentioned in the discussion; a number of large irregular transfers, some complex in nature, the exact purpose of which is hard to detail; and a situation whereby we see various entities in respect of which transparency is not present.

Could Mr. Kelly say if the private auditor mentioned in relation to the bar and other areas throughout the report been engaged in many other areas of the Garda college, or was it only the bar?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Is this in regard to page 23?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Does the Deputy mean where is mention of auditors and auditors qualifying the accounts in 2009?

Yes. And he is mentioned earlier in another entity. From a common sense perspective, it seems very strange that an auditor would furnish an opinion saying that books of account have been kept except for the cash records. As anyone knows, in a bar, cash is the most important thing and that there be controls to ensure its safeguarding and that it is accounted for correctly. It seems very strange. I note in the paragraph after that, that Mr. Kelly had discussions with him in relation to that. Can Mr. Kelly expand on those discussions?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I do not think I should because that is his opinion. He is a professional and he has come to that opinion. I have accepted that opinion from him.

Does Mr. Kelly think that opinion is reasonable?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I do not think it is acceptable. He clearly has called it as he saw it and that is his audit opinion.

For anyone with common sense reading it, it is immediately apparent how off the wall that is.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Has he been engaged by the Garda college for any other entities?

There is a laptop talking to us. I do not know if anyone has control over it but could someone do something. Please continue Deputy Burke.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I am not sure what work he has done for the college but I have seen his name on a number of different things so I think he has done work for the college in other areas.

That would concern me greatly.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I would concur with the Deputy. That audit finding speaks for itself.

There have been a number of transfers. Looking at the restaurant area, in a year and a half there was €400,000 in transfers to keep it going during periods when numbers were not present. The bar amassed €417,000 in that current account. We are saying that from 2009, there were no accounts present. Does Mr. Kelly think that is a very serious aspect that he cites in the report?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I agree.

In Mr. Kelly's knowledge, as an internal auditor, where in the chain of command of An Garda Síochaána should this issue be highlighted? What are the checks and balances there? What are the internal controls within An Garda Síochána that would highlight this anomaly? If I was looking at a bar with €400,000 sitting in its current account, with years passing - even though activity had dropped with the moratorium there was still significant money there - and no accounts presented. Then an opinion was issued which stated that proper accounts had been kept, yet major assumptions had been made about cash. Where should the checks and balances lie?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Clearly that set of audits was presented to the management in the college which was administering the bar and so on. It did not go to the audit committee, it did not come to internal audit back in 2009, I think.

Would it do so now?

Mr. Niall Kelly

We are changing the arrangements in the college so these are no longer separate entities in any way, shape or form. Therefore they would be part of the normal Garda procedures and subject to audit from the Garda internal audit section rather than hiring in auditors to work on them.

Has that changed now? Has that been enacted?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes it has.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Just to confirm a couple of things. One of the bars has closed, so that was one of the actions taken. The bar is not open at the moment, it is currently closed. Second, the administrator in place in the college has sight over and access to all income and expenditure associated with the shop and the restaurant, as the two other entities which are referenced here. If the Deputy was asking me for assurance, I would be able to provide that.

On the explanations for those transfers, we are all clear of the skills-gap in administration cited by An Garda Síochána, but we are not talking about a time in the dark ages. It is clear that common sense should apply in issues like this. Ignorance is no defence. I need assurance from the Commissioner on the changes that have happened in An Garda Síochána, that these issues would be reported immediately to the appropriate structures and identified and immediate safeguards would be put in place to ensure they do not happen again. It is very easy to point to a lack of skills or administration, but a lot of these issues are common sense issues, that an ordinary individual would realise were wrong.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes, we can provide assurances to the Deputy about the structures we have put in place in the college today. I have asked for assurances from the chief administrative officer and the line management in the college to assure me that any issues arising can be brought to our attention immediately and actioned immediately. It is one thing to bring it to our attention but that appropriate actions are taken. Outside the college, we have put in revised governance arrangements throughout the organisation to provide us with those assurances including strengthening our finance control measures. The deputy commissioner, in conjunction with the chief administrative officer, is leading out on those issues.

On the bar accounts, could Mr. Kelly say what type of entity it was? How was it recorded? What was audited?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I did not audit those accounts.

Mr. Kelly reviewed them.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I have reviewed the audit opinions.

Has Mr. Kelly reviewed the actual accounts?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I have not reviewed the accounts. I have accepted the audit opinion presented by the external auditor.

Which is clearly off the wall.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Which is clearly off the wall.

So how did Mr. Kelly accept it then?

Mr. Niall Kelly

What I am saying is I accept their opinion. That audit opinion that says they cannot stand over the cash in a bar is-----

I am missing what Mr. Kelly is saying. Has Mr. Kelly seen the accounts?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I have seen the audits of those accounts.

But seeing those audits would be seeing the accounts? Is Mr. Kelly just looking at a page where there is an audit report or is he looking at a complete set of accounts whereby all the figures are backed up and there are notes and so on. Could Mr. Kelly tell me exactly what he was seeing?

Mr. Niall Kelly

What I am saying is I have reviewed the audited accounts prepared by Mr. Fitzgerald. As I said, the qualified audit opinion says a multitude and I am not going to add to that.

If Mr. Kelly has seen the accounts, my question was what structure is this bar recorded on?

Mr. Niall Kelly

In one way, it is irrelevant at this stage because it is closed.

This report is for €112 million of taxpayers money over a time, and I can see a bar that has amassed almost half a million euro in cash in a bank account. This is very relevant, believe you me. I need to know what structure it was under. Are we talking about an income and expenditure account on Microsoft Excel or a set of accounts? What structure are we talking about?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I would think it was probably more of an income and expenditure account. It was run as a social club rather than a business.

The concerns expressed are in the auditor's opinion.

I am worried about the fact that business and community people face controls in running their businesses and they face the full rigours of the law if they do not follow them. We need to protect the reputation of An Garda Síochána and we cannot allow these practices to go on. Mr. Kelly needs to give as much information about what went wrong as he can, even though this is only an interim report. He needs to state what the structure was and what accountancy procedures were in place. Why were some moneys paid through statements and not invoices? Cash was paid out of the bar but if an auditor has to make assumptions about cash, he is saying there may be bills paid for which he cannot account.

Mr. Niall Kelly

In my report, I have highlighted that this is clearly irregular and not acceptable and the Commissioner has also said that. I am not hiding anything and have quoted the serious opinion of the local accountant in Templemore who audited the accounts. I am not going to re-audit them as there is no necessity to do that.

I disagree with Mr. Kelly. One cannot accept the opinion of a person if it is wrong. We have to clearly find out what happened. A local GAA club would have better records than we have here. We are talking about An Garda Síochána.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

As Mr. Kelly said, we were very unhappy at these unacceptable practices so we took the decision to close the bar and regularise all the practices around it. The Chairman said that regularised can mean a lot of things so I would be happy to use another word but we are actively implementing all the recommendations of Mr. Kelly's report to ensure all the issues are addressed.

I would hope that An Garda Síochána would already have taken action if there had been incorrect behaviour among gardaí. Can Ms O'Sullivan give me an assurance on that point?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes. When the report is complete, it will be examined to see if any matters warrant further examination or investigation and they will be addressed.

The guests will be very welcome when they come back in July. When they come, they should have answers. I have sat and listened very patiently and I am none the wiser than I was at the beginning of the meeting. Far from a skill gap emerging, I see incredible dexterity and a very deliberate system to funnel moneys in particular directions. This shows remarkable skill and does not happen by accident. I am sure the Commissioner would not claim it does. The systems were consciously put in place and were in place for a very long time. Regardless of whether people understood or cared about the seriousness of what they were involved in, they demonstrated remarkable ingenuity and determination.

Mr. Kelly said he had been in position since 2007. Is that correct?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

He said he was asking questions in 2008 and 2009. Can he briefly say what the nature of those questions was?

Mr. Niall Kelly

As I said in my report, I was seeking to conduct audits in the college. I was informed that the financial procedures were being changed, that it would not be worth my while doing them at that time and that I would be better waiting until afterwards. I started the audits and found out that other people were auditing at the same time so I stopped. I wanted to let them finish and see what was going on at a later stage.

Mr. Kelly also said that he was asking questions but not getting answers. Who was obstructing his work at that time?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I will give an example. The 2008 McGee report on the financial directorate was not forwarded to me, though I sought a copy of it.

From whom did Mr. Kelly seek a copy?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I sought a copy from senior management, in this case the chief superintendent, in the college.

Mr. Kelly sought it but it was not furnished.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

What did Mr. Kelly do about that?

Mr. Niall Kelly

In 2011-----

Please do not jump by three years, it disorientates me.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Sorry.

Mr. Kelly was looking for this in 2008.

Mr. Niall Kelly

It was 2008 to 2009.

I want to know what he did in 2008.

Mr. Niall Kelly

In 2008 and 2009 I was looking for copies of that report but I did not get them.

Mr. Kelly is the head of the audit function.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I am.

His independence is absolutely central and the co-operation of the Garda Síochána is taken as read. Nobody has any authority to tell him that they will not furnish to him the material he requires. Is that the case?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes. They should not do that.

Was anybody disciplined or taken to task for this? Was the superintendent challenged for refusing to provide Mr. Kelly with the material he legitimately required?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I am not aware of this having happened.

Who is Mr. Kelly's boss?

Mr. Niall Kelly

My boss is the deputy commissioner, Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin. I also have a direct link to the Commissioner.

The deputy commissioner, Mr. Ó Cualáin, was not in place at the time.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I was not.

Did Mr. Kelly make a complaint to whoever was in the job at the time that he was being obstructed?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I certainly brought he issue up.

I have no reason to question Mr. Kelly's professional competence but he should not have to pause on that question. If he was aware that a report had been prepared, he was the auditor and the buck stops with him. He had an obligation to pursue that matter through his line manager and to ensure that he got whatever figures he needed.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

I regard that as a failing on his part as auditor. Mr. Kelly was asking questions in 2008 and 2009 but was obstructed. Did he stop asking questions?

Mr. Niall Kelly

No, I did not.

Did he stop asking questions through 2010, 2011, etc?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes, and I have documented them in this report, on page 14.

Of whom was Mr. Kelly asking questions?

Which report was this?

Mr. Niall Kelly

It is on page 14. On 2 March 2011, in a report to the Garda Commissioner in respect of financial controls in 2010, I state that GIS could provide no assurance in regard to the financial controls in place in the Garda College, Templemore.

Mr. Niall Kelly

The reasons relate to the issues the Deputy has brought up, namely, my attempts to get reports.

Was that paragraph not deleted?

Mr. Niall Kelly

It was deleted from the final version of the report.

Why was it deleted?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I am coming to that.

Mr. Kelly needs to be succinct.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I will be. On 2 March 2011, I forwarded that first draft of the report to the Garda Commissioner. On 4 March, I received a note from the chief administrative officer headed "urgent". Attached was a note from the then Commissioner saying that a report should be furnished to Mr. Kelly. That report was a summarised version of the earlier report, the finance directorate report. I think it was Mr. Culhane who wrote that summarised version.

That is extraordinary. It is an extraordinarily muddled, long-winded, awkward, crazy account of how one would go about one's business, as an organisation or as an auditor. That is the dog ate my homework type of excuse. The witness is seeking information, and he is not seeking it without due cause-----

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

-----not least because it was his job to do it. He is not getting it and he is all around the houses for a period of years. Of course, he could not verify what was going on in the college because he does not have the basis to do it. There are memoranda and communications flying left, right and centre. What strikes me is that while all these little diversionary skirmishes are taking place, the facts are not got at. I have a terrible suspicion, and I do not wish to say it was an orchestrated thing, that not just were people blocking and diverting but that others were perhaps looking the other way. Will Mr. Kelly, as the head of audit, reassure me that he at no stage looked the other way and that he genuinely pursued the full facts of what was going on with determination?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Absolutely. The Deputy will have to let me respond. This was brought to the attention of the audit committee. In hindsight, I would say that, probably, I should not have taken the assurances that were provided to me. I brought this issue to the highest level. I went to the Commissioner about it. I addressed it to the deputy commissioner. I received a report back saying that the issues were being addressed, and I say in my report-----

Who was the Commissioner at the time? Was it Mr. Murphy?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes, it was Commissioner Murphy.

Mr. Kelly got an assurance from the then Commissioner-----

Mr. Niall Kelly

That these things were-----

He said, "Relax, Niall, everything is fine. These matters are being attended to."

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes, absolutely.

Was that not very misleading of the then Commissioner?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I cannot go into his thought processes.

I am not inviting Mr. Kelly to-----

Mr. Niall Kelly

I am not going to go there.

-----go into any thought processes. However, Mr. Kelly got an assurance-----

Mr. Niall Kelly

I got an assurance.

-----at the time which was not worth the paper it was written on or the breath with which it was expressed.

Mr. Niall Kelly

In hindsight, yes, one could say that.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

To correct the record, we must be specific about the date Mr. Kelly is discussing. Was that in 2011?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The Commissioner then was Mr. Callinan.

I thank Ms O'Sullivan for the clarification of the identity. The net point remains the same. When did Mr. Barrett come on the scene? Was it 2014?

If anybody needs to leave the room, they can notify the clerk.

I do not wish to be accused of oppressive questioning.

Mr. John Barrett

It was 3 October 2014.

Having listened to all of this, it strikes me that it was only when Mr. Barrett came in from the real world, as it were, that we start to see things changing. It appears to me from reviewing it, and we cannot be conclusive because there is more work to be done, that one only sees the step change at that point.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Well-----

I will come to the Commissioner in a moment. I do not wish to be rude. Mr. Barrett arrived and surveyed the scene. He set out earlier all of the things that happened - the 2008 report and the subsequent report. Mr. Cyril Dunne was the then CAO.

Mr. John Barrett

Yes.

Did he ask Mr. Barrett to do a synthesis or did Mr. Barrett suggest to him that this work needed to be done?

Mr. John Barrett

The running order here is that, in June 2015, I began asking a series of questions about overtime expenditure in the college. We were coming up to the half year. The answers were unsatisfactory in some respects. In the course of that I discovered that essentially we had a private entity operating our restaurant. Up to that point in time I had no knowledge of this.

Who did the witness ask the questions of and who gave him unsatisfactory answers?

Mr. John Barrett

They were the finance staff in the college who I had addressed on spending issues and how controls were operating.

The witness was not happy with what he was hearing.

Mr. John Barrett

No. I get a monthly report from the finance director, so I knew we were overspending. That was the basis of it. Then I worked with Superintendent McCabe-----

Who is in charge of that finance directorate?

Mr. John Barrett

It ultimately rolls up to Michael Culhane.

Mr. John Barrett

It begat a series of inquiries. I began to work with the administrator in the college, Superintendent McCabe, who is with us today, and I came to understand that, effectively, there was a series of activities going on in the college that were outside the line command. For example, the restaurant, which I had assumed was part of the established Civil Service and was an in-house operation was separate and distinct. That was the beginning of a series of questions.

Was it in that questioning process that the witness discovered the 2008 report which he was not conscious of prior to that?

Mr. John Barrett

I was totally unaware of any of the historical background until that time. I got the 2008 report. Then I was told there was a 2010 report.

Who told the witness about the 2010 report?

Mr. John Barrett

The running order is important. I got the 2008 report and I rang Mr. Cyril Dunne and said that I had this and that he must have a copy.

What date was that?

Mr. John Barrett

I have the chronology. It was in the last week of June 2015. I asked the author of the 2008 report to give a copy to Mr. Dunne if he did not have it already in his office.

Mr. John Barrett

He did. Mr. Dunne and I discussed it. We had a meeting in the college on Tuesday, 30 June. On foot of that, I got a request from Mr. Dunne to go and synthesise. We had discovered the 2010 report at that meeting or around that time, and he asked me to put a note together detailing the issues arising from the two reports.

Mr. Culhane had overseen this 2008 report.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes, the 2008 report. I also did an update on the 2010 report.

To whom did Mr. Culhane send it?

Mr. Michael Culhane

That would have gone to the chief administrative officer.

So Mr. Dunne had it.

Mr. John Barrett

In 2008 it was John Leamy, his predecessor.

The CAO in position had both of those. I thank Mr. Culhane. Mr. Barrett then did his work and synthesised these findings. He has seen Mr. Kelly's work now. Does Mr. Barrett believe he was on the right track?

Mr. John Barrett

I believe I was.

Mr. Barrett's work was subsequently verified by Mr. Kelly's work. Then the CAO at the time-----

Mr. John Barrett

Mr. Dunne.

-----said to Mr. Barrett that he would brief the audit committee.

Mr. John Barrett

That was the purpose of the synthesis.

Okay. However, that did not happen.

Mr. John Barrett

I discovered that on 27 July. He told me that he had not briefed the audit committee.

Did he give Mr. Barrett an explanation for that?

Mr. John Barrett

No. It happened in the course of a conversation around the issues arising in the college.

What did the witness make of that?

Mr. John Barrett

I was disappointed, frankly. I had put a weekend into putting it together with some urgency.

What does the Commissioner make of that? Was she in position as Garda Commissioner at that stage?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I was interim Garda Commissioner.

Nonetheless, Ms O'Sullivan was the woman in charge.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes.

Was Ms O'Sullivan aware that this synthesis work had happened, that the audit committee was to be briefed and that it had not been briefed? What was her knowledge of that?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I was aware from a report I had received from Deputy Commissioner Ó Cualáin that the head of legal affairs had prepared on the basis of-----

I ask the Commissioner to, please, tell us when she became aware that the synthesis work had happened.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

The first I became aware of this issue officially was when I received a report from the deputy commissioner who-----

The Commissioner has already said that. She said there was a brief report.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No, there was a report with a recommendation from the head of legal affairs who had had conversations-----

What was the date?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It was 28 July. My recollection is that it was received in my office around 30 July, but we can clarify the date. Prior to that, I believe on 27 July, there was a very brief conversation in a room after a meeting in Templemore at which Mr. Barrett had raised certain issues, specifically to do with some work he was doing, when I was present with the two deputy commissioners and the chief administrative officer.

How brief was it?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

My recollection is that it was very brief.

How brief - five minutes, ten minutes?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I do not know, but from recollection and memory, it was brief.

Does that tally with the recollection of Mr. Barrett?

Mr. John Barrett

The meeting lasted over two hours.

The meeting lasted two hours.

Mr. John Barrett

It did. It is included in the minutes.

Mr. Barrett has minutes of the meeting? Can the committee have them?

Mr. John Barrett

It is included in the text of the document for which I think the Vice Chairman has already asked.

It will be circulated electronically to everyone.

Two hours is not brief, is it?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

My memory is that it was a brief meeting after a very long meeting in the Garda College. On the issues related to the college, there was an undertaking given that a report would be forwarded.

We need clarity because in nobody's language is a two-hour exchange brief. Mr. Barrett seems to be quite sure in his recollection and says he has minutes and documentary evidence to support the fact that it was a two-hour meeting.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I can only give my recollection. I am quite happy to look at Mr. Barrett's minutes that he references because I have not seen them. It is very important that we see the minutes but also-----

I suggest, unless this is totally irregular on my part, that we suspend the sitting for five minutes to allow the Commissioner to view the documentation that I believe Mr. Barrett has with him. We cannot sit here wondering if it was a five-minute or a two-hour meeting. With the indulgence of other members, I suggest-----

Let me make a brief suggestion. If Mr. Barrett has the documentation with him, he could give it to the Commissioner. I will let her look at it for two minutes while we remain in session because I do not want to break up the meeting again.

I am happy enough with that suggestion.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

While Mr. Barrett is preparing it, what I am very, very clear on is that, on receipt of the report from the deputy commissioner, as was agreed, it was immediately actioned that the chief administrative officer, Mr. Dunne, would set up a group to look at what the issues were.

Before the Commissioner looks at the documentation, she went to Mr. Dunne to ask why it was that he had not briefed the audit committee in the way suggested to Mr. Barrett? Did she approach him to query it?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

My understanding is Mr. Dunne briefed the audit committee at its September meeting.

There was an undertaking given to do so in July. We have heard testimony that Mr. Barrett worked through the weekend to carry out the work. At his request, he was to bring the matters forward, but he did not. He has told us that he was very disappointed. What exactly was going on? Did the Commissioner ask him?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No, I did not. The first I became aware of the issue was on 27 July. On 28 July the deputy commissioner prepared a report based on Mr. Ruane's report that he had sent to the deputy commissioner and we immediately put together a group comprising representatives of the Department of Justice and Equality to look at the issues. There is something very important that needs clarification. We are talking about something in isolation. The Deputy has mentioned on a number of occasions the 2008 report.

No, I am sorry. The Commissioner may come back in at the end and rehearse the general scope, if she so wishes, but we are dealing with a very specific issue and I want specific clarification. We need to clear up the question of whether it was a five-minute or a two-hour exchange because one version is correct and the other incorrect. In my view, the Commissioner has not given a credible explanation as to why she did not ask Mr. Dunne what was going on in dealing with these matters.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I had discussions with Mr. Dunne and the two deputy commissioners and it was agreed that we would put together a group to be chaired by Mr Dunne and comprising representatives of-----

That is fine. In the course of that exchange what explanation did Mr. Dunne give at that stage for not briefing the audit committee?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

He did not give any explanation because there was to be a group to be established-----

No, I do not accept that.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

With respect, the 2008 report is relevant here because Mr. Barrett, quite rightly, has highlighted that he identified a 2008 report compiled by Mr. McGee. There was also a 2010 report identified.

We are aware of that.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

What is very important and what was very important - I cannot speak for everybody else but it was in my mind - was that we needed to understand the context of what precisely had happened between 2008 and 2010. What I now know from the work done and the documents we have seen is that there was very extensive - that is, evidence on a file - consultation with the Department of Justice and Equality at a very high level in the intervening years to actually address some of the issues identified in the 2008 report.

That still does not answer the question. Would the Commissioner like to have a look at the documentation?

I want to give the Commissioner time to read it because we need clarification. Before she does that, she keeps referring to the date of 27 July and the fact that she had a brief exchange. Was it said to her in passing or was it mentioned in a document?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No, it was not a document. My memory is - I can only go on my memory-----

Fine; we all have to do that.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

My memory is that after a long meeting in the Garda College, accompanied by the chief administrative officer and two deputy commissioners, I was in the reception room having tea. Mr. Barrett arrived into the room and spoke about the issues raised in the-----

I think the Commissioner needs to read the document. We will give her a few moments to do so.

We will need silence.

Whenever she is ready, she can read it. I want to be fair to her.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I ask the deputy commissioner who was also present to read the account because I do not presume that he has seen it.

That is no problem. Let us give him a copy. We will be able to ask Mr. Barrett about it afterwards.

We will have another moment of silence and reflection. We do that here.

Is Mr. Ó Cualáin okay?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Yes.

For the sake of clarity, who wrote the minutes?

Mr. John Barrett

I did.

The Commissioner might answer Deputy McDonald's question.

To clarify, these are not minutes as such. They are a record.

Mr. John Barrett

It is a letter to Mr. Cyril Dunne. Dated 20 September 2015, it was FAO Mr. Dunne, CAO, on the perspectives and the lessons to be learned from the interim report of Mr. Justice Nial Fennelly with respect to the approach being taken in addressing financial and administrative irregularities at the Garda College in Templemore. That is the footer on each page.

It is important that we should have seen that before asking questions.

We cannot do that now.

The difficulty is that we did not have Mr. Barrett's letter. It will be distributed.

This anomaly has arisen and we need clarity on it.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I note that the document that I have just read is not actually a minute of a meeting. It is entitled, "A Critical Inflection Point". As Mr. Barrett said, this was prepared in September. The meeting that I referred to and that I recall took place on 27 July.

The witnesses are agreed that they are talking about the same meeting. Is Mr. Barrett resiling from his position-----

Mr. John Barrett

Not at all.

-----or is it still his view that it was a two-hour meeting?

Mr. John Barrett

When the committee has the document, it will speak eloquently for itself. It is a letter to Mr. Dunne. It reflects on a number of issues and, in particular, draws attention to what I called the inflection point. It mentions how the meeting at the Garda College on 27 July was important in many respects and goes on from there.

That is the meeting to which Mr. Barrett referred. We are not in a position to reconcile two diametrically contradictory accounts of the duration of that meeting. Obviously, Mr. Barrett felt that it was a-----

Mr. John Barrett

The time is in the document. I make a reference to when the meeting began.

Mr. John Barrett

I will give the Deputy the details. They are in the document. The meeting started at 5.20 p.m. It even details the order in which people came into the room, believe it or not. The meeting at the Garda College on Monday, 27 July was important in many respects. It began at 5.20 p.m.

I thank Mr. Barrett.

Could Mr. Barrett share the rest of the document? We do not have it. Could it be read into the record? Is it long?

Mr. John Barrett

Yes. It is approximately six pages long.

Mr. John Barrett

I left the meeting at 7.37 p.m. and was the first to leave.

That was nearly two and a quarter hours, if my maths are not bad. This is problematic. I accept that the work is not complete, but we are reading the contours of what has been presented and it seems that these matters were not raised with the Commissioner as a side issue or a "by the by". She was deeply informed, briefed and so on.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

There is no dispute that I was informed and briefed. On 28 July, the then acting deputy commissioner sent me a note that had the report from the head of legal affairs. It contained sufficient detail that, on 30 July, I wrote back to the deputy commissioner and agreed that the committee would-----

We will come to that, but it does not address the point that there is a clash of evidence.

The Deputy will get another chance. She might conclude. I will allow her back in.

I have two more important points. Before I move on, what is Mr. Ó Cualáin's recollection of the meeting's duration, or does he have one?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I just know that it was a very long day in the college.

Was it a long meeting or a five-minute one?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

It was a long day in the college.

I am not asking about that.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I understand, but I do not know how long that aspect of the-----

Mr. Ó Cualáin does not remember how long the meeting was.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I know that there was a meeting. I could not give any estimate.

Mr. Ó Cualáin does not recall-----

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I cannot recall, but I-----

My goodness. The witnesses are officers of the law and trained detectives. I am shocked that their recollection is so faulty.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I can check my notes. This is about a meeting that happened at the end of a very long day.

I thank Mr. Ó Cualáin. I have a final question for Mr. Ruane.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It might be important to note that my memory is that it was not a formal meeting. After a very long meeting in the Garda College,-----

We will get back to that.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

------we were having some tea in the reception.

Will Mr. Ruane briefly describe for the committee his role in this? It has been described as crucial, no less. He is the legal adviser to the Garda Commissioner. Is that correct?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Yes.

Can he advise the committee of his role and interactions in the midst of the situation? Can he advise us of what an "S41" is? Can he advise us of the nature of the advice that he gave to the Commissioner and when he gave it?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

My professional applications obligate me to provide advices. Those advices are privileged and that privilege rests with my client, but I will be as helpful as I can with the Deputy's questions. First, section 41 is a section of the Act-----

The Garda Síochána Act.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

The Garda Síochána Act 2005. The section puts certain obligations to report matters to the Minister for Justice and Equality and, after the section was amended, to the Policing Authority. Originally, section 41 just pertained to the Minister. There are circumstances in which the Commissioner could consider forwarding a report to the Minister.

In the circumstances that emerged in July, synthesis happened and the Commissioner was briefed on serious matters. If Mr. Ruane cannot answer that, perhaps the Commissioner might. Was advice given to her under section 41 to inform the Minister to make a report elsewhere? Did the Commissioner take that advice?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Advice was not given to me under section 41. Section 41 of the Garda Síochána Act is a provision under which matters can be informed to the Minister. I received a report from the deputy commissioner, Mr. Ó Cualáin, which attached a report from the head of legal. As Mr. Ruane stated, there is client confidentiality and privilege attaching, but I have no difficulty in saying what I did on receipt of the report. We had had discussions at the executive level about setting up this committee, making sure that all of the individuals that needed to be informed about this were informed and that we got an holistic view of precisely what we were talking about. We then decided that the group would be established and would include representatives from the Department of Justice and Equality so that everyone would be completely sighted and au fait with what we were doing, that being, trying to find out the context of this. The Magee report was in 2008. We wanted to know who had knowledge and sight of this. It is important to say that, in the funding arrangements that were put in place in the college, the Departments of Justice and Equality and Finance extensively advised on those structures. We were trying to establish what we were dealing with and, more importantly, what needed to be done.

I am sorry, but is Ms O'Sullivan saying that the Department of Justice and Equality advised the kinds of structure that were in place in Templemore and knew all about this creative accounting model?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

My understanding is that the funding arrangement for the Garda College from the Walsh report onwards was done. Bearing in mind that-----

Remind us of the date of the Walsh report.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

It was 1988.

Is Ms O'Sullivan saying that the Department had been aware of the funding arrangements in Templemore since 1988?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I cannot comment on behalf of the Department, but-----

Of course, but that is what Ms O'Sullivan is presuming.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

-----what I can say is that, prior to the Commissioner becoming Accounting Officer in 2006, the Accounting Officer for An Garda Síochána was the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality.

I thank Ms O'Sullivan for that.

I need Deputy McDonald to conclude briefly.

Did Ms O'Sullivan's legal adviser give her advice under section 41 to inform the Minister for Justice and Equality?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes. The legal adviser gave me his opinion-----

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

-----that this may warrant a report under section 41. I felt at the time that we did not have sufficient information. We put together an immediate group, comprising representatives of the Department of Justice and Equality, to get to the bottom of the matter.

I am assuming that Mr. Ruane is a most competent and proficient individual. That is why he is in the job and is the Commissioner's legal adviser.

He gives the witness this advice on a matter in which she has said there was unacceptable behaviour and on a system that brought with it absolutely jeopardy in terms of the standing and reputation of An Garda Síochána. I think the witness would accept that. Her legal adviser advises her under the Act that this is a matter that ought to be reported to the Minister for Justice and Equality, and she disregards that advice. That is quite something.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I did not disregard the advice. What I did was consider what we were aware of at that particular point in time.

How many reports had been done at that point in time?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I will be very clear. There was a 2008 report compiled by Mr. Magee. There was a 2010 report. Bear in mind that these reports were not attached to what I had received. It was very important that in order for us to be fully informed and to be in a position to fully inform the Minister, and knowing that there had been a prior relationship over a number of years with the Department of Justice and Equality, we had to have an holistic view of exactly what had happened and what had been done. As evidenced in the interim audit report, which has now been completed by Mr. Kelly, we are still not in a position to provide all of those answers.

So the witness stalled. When did she tell the Minister of these happenings?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

When Mr. Kelly's report was-----

Remind the committee what date that was.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I want to be very clear. At all times, the group that was established comprised of representatives from the Department of Justice and Equality.

But the witness, as Garda Commissioner, failed to inform the Minister despite having advice to that effect. What date did she inform the Minister of these happenings in Templemore?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I will have to check that. I do not have that information here. My recollection is that when the audit report was completed, it was sent to the Minister as a draft interim report around September 2016.

We will come back to Deputy McDonald. I am sure she has loads more questions.

I might interject myself. I thank Deputy Aylward, who was out briefly and was on the list ahead of me.

I will let the Vice Chairman go ahead. He heard more than I did.

Thank you. I could not compete with Deputy Aylward, to be fair. I have a few general questions. I will ask a couple of these questions of every witness. Witnesses may feel free if they need to come forward to the microphone.

The Garda Commissioner said that she was told briefly about this before the meeting on 27 July. Was 27 July the first date on which she heard about this?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes.

Okay. Is she aware of my contribution to the Dáil with regard to the issues in Templemore on 12 April?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

No, I do not believe so.

Are any of the witnesses? Okay. That is fine. I just wanted to ask that for reasons of clarity. When did Mr. Barrett first become aware of the issues from the 2008 and 2010 reports?

Mr. John Barrett

I received a copy of the report probably around the last week in June. I drew it to the immediate attention of Mr. Cyril Dunne. I asked the author of the report to deliver a copy to Mr. Dunne in the event that he did not have a copy in his office in order that he and I could talk about the same text.

In June 2015.

Mr. John Barrett

Yes.

Okay. Were any of the witnesses here today, including Department officials, aware of the issues relating to the 2008 and 2010 reports before June 2015? Remember that I am asking every single person, so if anyone needs to step up to the microphone, please do so. Was anyone aware of any issues? Okay. I will rephrase my question. Had any witness any suspicions of financial irregularities in Templemore before June 2015? This is for the record of the Committee of Public Accounts. No. Okay. I just wanted to get that on the record.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Perhaps I could interject. At certain points, certain limited issues prior to that had been referred for legal advice. However, the entire context of matters was brought together by Mr. Barrett.

Fair enough. For information, were the issues brought to the witness's attention individual items or-----

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Yes.

Were any of them brought to the witness's attention by anyone in this room?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Not by any individual in this room.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I will interject as well on the question-----

I think a lot of people are reflecting on my question.

Mr. Niall Kelly

One has to have a little bit of thought on it. Pages 14 and 15 of my report detail what I knew or the attempts I was making to gain information. As discussed with Deputy McDonald, they outline my seeking information, being uneasy about issues, bringing my concerns to the Garda Commissioner at the time and being provided with assurances and a summary report from Mr. Culhane. At that stage, I accepted the assurances provided. After that date, the college effectively closed down. From 2011 onwards to 2014 and 2015, there was very little activity in the college.

Before 2011, was the information that was provided to the witness provided by anyone in this room?

Mr. Niall Kelly

The problem was that information was not provided to me, but I had concerns. That was my issue. I was aware that there were reports out there that I was not aware of that I thought should have been brought to internal audit.

For emphasis, I will repeat what the witness has said there. He was aware that there were reports out there that he was not being made aware of.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Let us just think about that. How did the witness become aware of something that he knew existed and that he had looked for but was not given?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Because I was told-----

Who told the witness?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I think it was probably the management of the college when I was seeking to conclude-----

I respect that this is going back a few years, to be fair to the witness.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes. I think it may have been the finance directorate as well. It was engaged in work in the college and I was informed to hang on until that work was concluded before I could have a look at the new system.

So all of the witness's requests for this information about these reports, the 2008 report in particular, fell on deaf ears.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Did he make numerous requests for it?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Four or five?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I would say so, yes.

Is that not incredible?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

What we have done, which I think is important-----

I am not asking the witness to talk about what she has done and, in fairness, she was not Garda Commissioner at the time. However, is it not incredible that the internal auditor of An Garda Síochána on multiple occasions asked for a report - one he knew existed as he had been told about it - on the financial irregularities in Templemore College and, on multiple occasions, the processes in An Garda Síochána refused to give him that information? What does the Garda Commissioner think of that?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

I am sure that the Vice Chairman will appreciate that I cannot speak for my predecessors or for previous officeholders.

I am not asking the witness to speak for them. Does she think that the internal auditor should have been provided with the information?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes, I do. What I can tell the Vice Chairman, and Mr. Kelly knows this, is that we have made all of the reports available to us available to Mr. Kelly.

Okay. That is fine.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Apologies for interrupting for a second. Ms Reddy, who works in my office as a staff officer, wants to say that she would have been aware of the report in 2008. I know that she is technically not a witness, but she has just passed me a note there.

I might ask Ms Reddy when she was made aware of it.

Ms Helena Reddy

I was in the CAO's office since May 2008.

Ms Reddy is just aware of it.

Ms Helena Reddy

Yes.

So she was aware that there was a report.

Ms Helena Reddy

Yes.

That is fine. No problem. I thank Ms Reddy for coming forward. I respect and appreciate the fact that she has done so.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Could I just interject as well, if the Vice Chairman does not mind-----

There are a lot of people who are having very reflective thoughts all of a sudden.

This is a very interesting period in time. Go on.

Mr. Michael Culhane

In terms of the 2008 report, that was done under my auspices. I assigned staff to the Garda college to undertake that report. I had the report, which I obviously then sent on to the chief administrative officer. I also did an update in 2010 on what progress had been made on various actions taken by the chief superintendent. That is stated in Mr. Kelly's report as well.

Mr. Culhane is the chief financial officer. How long is he in that position?

Mr. Michael Culhane

More than eight years now.

However, I have been employed by An Garda Síochána since 2000.

What role was Mr. Culhane in previously?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I was director of finance prior to that.

What is the difference?

Mr. Michael Culhane

It was a promotion in terms of seniority and so on.

As such, Mr. Culhane has been aware of these issues for years. Does it concern him as chief financial officer of An Garda Síochána that while he had supplied information and people regarding the conduct of these reports, absolutely nothing happened with them from 2008 to 2016?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Well, in terms of-----

From his perspective in his role, did he make efforts to ensure these were being acted on?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes. The 2008 report was obviously forwarded to the chief administrative officer at the time and certain actions were then taken. Over the period of time then, other actions were taken to address some of the issues raised in the report.

What actions were taken?

Mr. Michael Culhane

The closure of the bank accounts and the liquidating of investments.

Is that 2008?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Sorry, no. The 2010 report stated that 13 bank accounts had been closed.

The answer was that action was taken in 2008 following the 2008 report. Mr. Culhane said action was taken after the 2008 report.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I would have passed the report on to the chief administrative officer to whom I reported and there was then a communication between the chief administrative officer and the Commissioner at the time. As has already been discussed, the Commissioner at the time accepted the recommendations in the report. There was an approval procedure there for the recommendations in the report. The report would then have been referred to the chief superintendent in the college to take various actions. During that period of time of, I think, 2008 to 2010, various actions were taken to address some of the recommendations in the report. I do not believe it was all of the recommendations.

At page 14 of the report it says that of the six points agreed in correspondence between the Commissioner and the CAO, none was implemented. That is on page 14 of the report.

Mr. Michael Culhane

It does say then in the report that of the recommendations-----

Can Mr. Culhane turn to page 14 of the report where he will see that?

That is exactly what I was about to point out.

It says that of the six points agreed in correspondence between the Commissioner and the chief administration officer, CAO, none was implemented.

How can Mr. Culhane stand over his statement that actions were taken when that is contradicted by the report itself?

Mr. Michael Culhane

If the members look at the bullet points above that, it states that 13 bank accounts were closed, the new college administrator role was established and new processes were put in place and reviewed at weekly performance accountability framework, PAF, meetings.

Yes, but in terms of the note that was given to the Commissioner, he accepted the recommendations. The logic was that they would be implemented but none of them was. Mr. Culhane referenced the note between the Commissioner and the CAO. He brought that up. It made, as we know, six recommendations and six points were raised. The internal audit report shows, and it may be that Mr. Kelly can enlighten us, that none of those recommendations was implemented. Does Mr. Culhane accept that?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I accept that in terms, maybe, of the six core points. However, there was some action taken in closing bank accounts.

Before Mr. Nugent comes in, Mr. Culhane made a very interesting point there. He said there were weekly PAF meetings on this.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I am just reading the report. I was not in attendance at those meetings.

I know, but there were weekly meetings about the 2008 report. Were there?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I am just reading the contents of the report.

Surely, Mr. Culhane would have been aware of it as chief financial officer.

Mr. Michael Culhane

No. The college was administered under the chief superintendent of the time. I would not attend those meetings.

I did not say Mr. Culhane had attended them but he was aware meetings were taking place.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I was not.

As such, Mr. Culhane was not aware that any progress was being made on a weekly or monthly basis from 2008 onwards in addressing the issues which were so glaringly obvious to him as chief financial officer.

Mr. Michael Culhane

There was an update in 2010, which encapsulated some of those actions that had been taken in the interim.

Does Mr. Culhane feel the response post-2008 under his role as chief financial officer was appropriate?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I highlighted the issues and I can only offer advice as well.

In other words, the executive summary for Mr. Culhane is he did his job, he pushed it up the line and nothing happened.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Certain actions were taken. At the time, the structure of the college was set up in such a fashion in terms of how it was funded through the weekly stipend for each student. That was the structure then. As for the bodies set up like the restaurant and the shop, they were managed externally to the Vote. They were not part of the Vote structure at the time.

I understand that. I have a final question. Was Mr. Culhane happy regarding the issues that arose in the 2008 report as chief financial officer and the actions taken? He was aware because he assigned the staff and all of that, as he said earlier. Was he happy with the way in which those actions were implemented? It is a "Yes" or "No" answer.

Mr. Michael Culhane

"No" is the answer.

I appreciate Mr. Culhane's honesty.

Can I be helpful to the Vice Chairman? Page 4 of the report states that college management responded in March 2010 rejecting many of the recommendations of the finance directorate's report. It goes on to say that some of the issues were addressed by the college management but the structural issues in college governance were not addressed and, over the years, some of the improvements in financial controls were reversed. Whatever improvements were made, some were actually reversed. Far from being in a position to be helpful and to implement recommendations, the report says college management rejected many of the recommendations of Mr. Culhane's report. Is that correct?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

On the rejection of those recommendations, what course of action did Mr. Culhane take?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I report to the chief administrative officer. I can only lay down the report. If my recommendations or advice are not accepted, I cannot force them to implement the recommendations.

Everyone who has been asked has said "We passed it on to somebody else" and somebody else is not in the room. We do not know what the person who is not in the room did with it. That is the pattern that seems to be evident from all of the responses.

In fairness, Mr. Culhane is saying he put it up the line, he was not happy with the way it was dealt with, as he said on the record of the committee, and the actions were not implemented. Not only were they not implemented but some of them were actually reversed according to the audit.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I accept that but the management of the college was not part of my brief.

There was a subset in between. Mr. Nugent, briefly.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

For the assistance of the committee, I am happy to make a copy of the correspondence referenced by Mr. Kelly in the audit report of 2010 which is from the chief superintendent of the college and which comments on each of the individual recommendations and what has happened with it. I will happily make that available.

My next question is to the Department of Justice and Equality. I asked earlier if anyone was aware before June 2015. I note the Department was not aware.

Mr. John O'Callaghan

That is correct although-----

The Department of Justice and Equality was unaware of any financial irregularities in Templemore before June 2015.

Mr. John O'Callaghan

That is correct. Having said that, I have seen a letter in the last number of days, namely, the instruction from the Commissioner to the CAO with the six recommendations which were not implemented, which had on its margins a record of the Commissioner having mentioned it to the Secretary General at the time. In so far as I have seen any evidence to suggest it, that was in the last week or so.

Yes, but there was not previously. I understand that Mr. O'Callaghan is only representing the Department of Justice and Equality today and cannot be holistic. I must declare for absolute transparency that I am from the town as Mr. O'Callaghan and I know him. The Department was not aware of the financial irregularities in Templemore training college in June 2015.

Mr. John O'Callaghan

That is my understanding, yes.

That is absolutely unbelievable. I am sorry. I respect that it is the answer. It is not a reflection on Mr. O'Callaghan. The idea, however, that since 1960, as well as since 1983 and the Walsh report which the Commissioner referenced herself, the Department had no idea there were financial irregularities in Templemore is, frankly, incredible.

I will move to some specific questions and I need Mr. Barrett in the room. He had left but while he is composing himself, does Mr. O'Callaghan or do his colleagues, such as Ms Barry or Mr. McDonald, wish to make a contribution? If there is anything they feel should be addressed in a different way, they need to say it now.

Mr. John O'Callaghan

Could I clarify an issue?

Of course. I am not trying to catch you out.

Mr. John O'Callaghan

I know. The Vice Chairman asked about irregularities and I will answer the question. The Department, as far as I am aware, was not aware of irregularities in the college. In terms of the structure of the finances of the college and how it was set up and arranged, it was done at a time when the Department had responsibility for the Garda Vote and the Secretary General of the Department was the Accounting Officer. I am not saying the Department did not know in 1992 when the arrangements were put in place what had been put in place. It clearly did as it had responsibility for that. It presumed that things worked as intended. I have seen nothing to suggest the Department knew at any time until 2015 of irregularities.

Have you any date in 2015? I will not get the witness to stick to it and he can come back to us later.

Mr. John O'Callaghan

Roughly speaking, it was October 2015.

I will not hold you to that as, to be fair, you are working from memory. I respect that.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

May I add to Mr. O'Callaghan's comments? We have found on a file indications that there were after the 2008 report conversations or meetings with the then Garda Commissioner, the then chief administrative officer and the then Secretary General of the Department. Again, I cannot speak for the people that had them. It is important in the context of our discussion that there are indications on the file that external advices were sought in terms of how to address those matters.

To be helpful, would the Garda Commissioner mind providing whatever evidence she finds with us in the next week or so? I know she is doing a bit of a trawl so I appreciate it.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

Yes, and it has all been made available to Mr. Kelly and the completion of his-----

That specific information is important for this committee to draw a connection as to whether the Department had awareness of this. I respect that the representatives here are not long in the Department in some cases and there is no inference involving them at all. They cannot have complete knowledge of what happened before their arrival. The information would be helpful to this committee as there are some questions we must ask. We have the information from 2006 and the 2008 report, and that is probably the first time the issues were encapsulated. We also have the 2010 report. From evidence today we find these reports went to a certain level in An Garda Síochána but never made it to the internal auditor. Is that a fair summary? If anybody has a contradiction, they should speak up now.

Mr. Niall Kelly

The inception of the 2006 report was discovered by me. The 2008 and 2010 reports did not go to me until I start auditing last year in June.

When did the Commissioner find out about the 2008 report?

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan

That was 2015.

It was July.

Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan