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COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS debate -
Wednesday, 31 May 2017

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

Mr. Niall Kelly (Head of Internal Audit, An Garda Síochána) called and examined.

We are now in public session. We are joined by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, who is a permanent witness at the committee. We will continue looking at the 2015 appropriation accounts, Vote 20, for An Garda Síochána, dealing specifically with the interim internal audit report on financial procedures in the Garda College. We met on this matter on 4 May 2017 and the issues discussed are of such concern that the committee has decided that further engagement is required. We will be keeping today's meeting to the matter of the interim audit report, and expect to meet with the Commissioner and others in respect of the same topic on 14 June. We will deal with the rest of the Vote on 13 July, when the Commissioner will be before the committee again. While the report refers to matters that have their history in events that span at least a couple of decades, the primary focus of today's meeting will be on what happened since 2015. I ask members and witnesses to co-operate in maintaining this focus.

We are joined today by the following witnesses from An Garda Síochána: Mr. Niall Kelly, head of internal audit and author of the interim audit report; Mr. John Barrett, executive director, human resources and people development; Mr. Michael Culhane, executive director, finance and services; Mr. Ken Ruane, head of legal services; Mr. Joseph Nugent, chief administrative officer; and Mr. Michael Howard, former head of the Garda audit committee. From the Department of Justice and Equality, we are joined by Ms Anne Barry, principal officer, policing division; and Mr. Paul McDonnell from the policing division.

I remind members, witnesses and those in the Public Gallery that all mobile phones must be turned off completely or put into flight mode as they interfere with the recording equipment. I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact 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 the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on 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 or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members are reminded of the provisions of Standing Order 186 that the committee shall refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister of the Government or the merits of the objectives of such policy. Members are also reminded of the long-standing ruling of the Chair to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

Before I call Mr. Niall Kelly to make his opening statement, I wish to point out that we have asked for only one statement from the head of internal audit and other people will also be questioned. I apologise but there is a change to the schedule for today. We had originally scheduled the meeting to commence this morning and to resume at 5 p.m. following a break in the afternoon. Due to commitments in the House, we have had to reschedule that. We will meet from now and my plan is that in two hours, we will take a short break for ten minutes, and continue until approximately 2 p.m. We will then break until 5 p.m., when we will return for an evening session, as originally intended. We may have indicated we were bringing that forward but, due to other commitments in the House, we are proceeding with the original plan. I hope people will appreciate that.

On a procedural note, we have just got notice that there may be votes in the Dáil on the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016, the deliberations on which started at 10 a.m. By virtue of those of us here being from different parties, are we all paired so it will not disrupt this morning's session? If there are periodic votes, it will seriously disrupt matters.

To clarify, there are no pairing arrangements in existence in the new politics of Dáil Éireann. From a practical point of view, a member can only pair with somebody who is voting in the opposite direction, and most of us, if we are not following the discussion-----

Do not know which way we are voting.

-----until the vote is called. We do not know what votes will be called, and our spokespersons will be the ones leading the debate. Some of us might be going to abstain, some might be going to vote for an amendment and some to vote against. There are no arrangements in place for pairing through the Committee of Public Accounts or notified to the Whips.

It might be prudent for one from each of the party groupings to text their Whip and seek permission for us to continue in the interests of continuity here. I will do that on our behalf and-----

I will do it on our behalf.

I intend to stay here. It is just that-----

Is the Deputy in a position to notify his party's Whip if there is a vote?

It would be awful to break up the meeting on two or three occasions. If there are three or four, one from the Government side can notify the Whip that we are going to be here. I am conscious of the fact that other members, who may be voting in another direction, may also be here. I think we can send messages in respect of an informal arrangement. It would be dreadful if we had to break up the meeting on several occasions. We will try to work with that. As chairperson, I will remain here in any event.

At this stage, I call Mr. Niall Kelly to make his opening comments.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I thank the committee for the opportunity to speak again today in regard to the internal audit report on the Garda College. I do not intend going into the detail of the report, which speaks for itself, but rather to advance some of the discussion points from our previous meeting. The report contains 19 recommendations, which were fully accepted by the Garda executive committee when I presented it with a draft of the report on 6 September 2016. The findings and recommendations in the report are robust and stand up to scrutiny. I would like to add that the Garda internal audit section, GIAS, has recently undergone an external review by a firm of accountants which concluded that the section is fully in compliance with the international professional practice framework of the Global Institute of Internal Auditors. This is the internationally recognised best practice standard for internal audit.

I started work in An Garda Síochána as head of internal audit ten years ago in June 2007. At that time and for the next two years approximately, I reported to Deputy Commissioner Fitzgerald, who is mentioned in the report in the context of the Garda Boat Club issue. From 2009 until his retirement in 2014, I reported to Deputy Commissioner Rice. It was Deputy Commissioner Rice who stated in a note to the Commissioner on 18 September 2009, “I strongly believe that any surplus money does not belong to the State but rather is owned by the members of An Garda Síochána from whom they were collected and I equally hold that any money cannot be used except for the welfare and development of the facilities for members at [An Garda Síochána]”. Deputy Commissioner Rice did not seek my advice in regarding this issue prior to sending his note to the Commissioner in 2009. Had he done so, I would have pointed out that this was contrary to section C5.19 of the Public Financial Procedures – the blue book - which, under the heading "Exchequer Extra Receipts", states, "These are receipts that the Department of Finance directs must be credited directly to the Exchequer and cannot be retained by Departments for their own use". The position of deputy commissioner was occupied by Kieran Kenny from mid-2014 to the end of 2015, when Dónall Ó Cualáin took over.

In regard to interference, non-co-operation and withholding information from internal audit, there are three periods of time that should be considered: first, the period from 2008 to 2011; second, the period from July 2015 to March 2016; and third, the period from September 2016 to March 2017. I will deal with the period 2008 to 2011. In this period, it is apparent that some people did not want the newly-appointed and very independent internal auditor from looking too critically at the Garda College. These people included my direct superiors during the period in question. When I did make inquires and attempted to get information, this information was withheld from me, as apparent from the strings of emails between the chief administrative officer, the executive director of finance, the chief superintendent and the administrator at the Garda College on 15 April 2010.

I will now deal with the period from July 2015 to March 2016. On 27 July 2015, all managers from chief superintendent, head of section or principal officer grade upwards attended a briefing session in Templemore on the modernisation and renewal programme. At a break in this session, Mr. Ken Ruane, head of legal affairs, asked me how the discussion about the Garda College at the audit committee meeting of the previous week, on 15 July, had gone. I told Mr. Ruane that no discussion took place at the audit committee meeting. He informed me that there were serious issues in the Garda College that I should be aware of and that Mr. John Barrett had prepared a document for Mr. Cyril Dunne, the then chief administrative officer, to brief the audit committee. Later that day, the meeting between the Commissioner, Mr. John Barrett, the two deputy commissioners and the executive director of finance took place - this was the meeting discussed at the previous Committee of Public Accounts. It should be noted that I was not invited to attend this meeting or informed of the outcome. The following day, at a break in another meeting in Westmanstown, County Dublin, I raised the issue with Superintendent John Keegan of the office of the deputy commissioner for governance and strategy. I spoke again with Superintendent Keegan at more length the following day - 29 July - at Garda headquarters. I have a contemporaneous note of these conversations, written in my own hand on 4 August 2015. I wrote, "Superintendent Keegan was of the view that these issues were similar to concerns that were expressed several years previously and which had been audited by GIAS and the executive director of finance and had been resolved". The Garda College issues were raised at the audit committee meeting of 30 September 2015 by Mr. Cyril Dunne. However, this discussion took place under the heading "any other business" at the end of a long agenda, with no documents circulated either before or at the meeting.

The chief administrative officer, CAO, had not sought to put the issue on the agenda of the meeting, even though he had a detailed report from Mr. Barrett since July of that year.

A working group was set up in the summer of 2015 to consider the issues in the college. I was told by Cyril Dunne, CAO, John Keegan, superintendent, and Kieran Kenny, deputy commissioner, on numerous occasions that internal audit should not be involved in the working group. This was because internal audit may be required to audit at a later stage. I had no difficulty with this. I was also informed that legal issues were being advanced with regard to the land and employee status at the college and until these legal issues were resolved, it would be unwise to commence an audit. I now know that I was misled with regard to the legal issues as the head of legal affairs, Mr. Ruane, was advising from July 2015 onwards that internal audit should be requested to commence an audit immediately.

The former chief administrative officer, Mr. Dunne, indicated to the Garda internal audit section, GIAS, as part of the consultative process that he wanted to check the issues presented to him by Mr. Barrett and gather more information. In response to this point, I state as following on page 15 of the report:

While GIAS acknowledge the contribution of the former CAO in progressing the issues we conclude that GIAS should have been informed immediately and that the report of the Executive Director HR&PD should have been put on the Agenda of the Audit Committee meeting in July 2015. GIAS with the backing of the Audit Committee were better placed to do the investigative and information gathering process that was taken on by the former CAO in July 2015.

From September 2016 to March 2017, when a draft reports was concluded, I consulted widely with persons that could possibly be identified in the report to ensure that fair procedures were observed. That was the reason for the gap at that time. As a result of this process some changes were made to the body of the report but these did not affect the audit opinion and main findings and recommendations contained in the executive summary to the report.

Two of the responses were from the executive director of finance and services, Mr. Culhane, dated 13 October 2016 and 20 February 2017. I understand he also wrote to the chair of the audit committee, Mr. Howard. I find these two letters totally unacceptable because Mr. Culhane questions my motives and my professional integrity and competence. I can only view these letters as an attempt to undermine the report or to try to get me to change my audit opinion, findings and recommendations.

The audit report is entitled "Interim Audit Report". This is because it is envisaged that further audit work would be required. The report gives a wide panoramic view of the financial controls in the Garda College from 2009 to 2016. It should be noted that I plan a series of audits on aspects of the Garda College over the next two years or so. I can assure this committee that I will persist in reviewing these issues until they are all satisfactorily resolved. Since the last meeting with the Committee of Public Accounts, we have commenced two specific audits on EU-funded projects and programmes concerning the college going back to 1998 and on current controls of cash in the college restaurant, shop, vending machines and bar, as well as current banking arrangements. I hope to have these two audit reports completed by the Committee of Public Accounts meeting on 13 July.

In conclusion, I wish to make points on two issues at the heart of the findings from the report and its surrounding discussions, namely, governance and culture. The report and issues around it identify failures of governance as exemplified by the correspondence between the then Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and the then CAO, John Leamy, on 25 April and 8 May 2008, when six action points were agreed and instruction given to implement these points by the Commissioner, that is, the Accounting Officer. I do not need to tell this committee but for the record it should be noted that in the public service, the role of Accounting Officer comprises all the responsibilities of the board of directors in the private sector. That the instructions of the Accounting Officer were not followed but another investigative process initiated between Deputy Commissioner Rice and the chief superintendent in the Garda College is a failure of governance.

Having concluded this audit and gone through all the discussions and analysis of the issues over the last two years, I am convinced that there was and may still be in some parts of An Garda Síochána a culture of not admitting to problems and, when these problems persist, trying to keep them in-house and away from transparent public scrutiny. This is apparent from the reluctance by senior management to get internal audit involved in the period from 2008 to 2011 and the period from July 2015 to March 2016.

There is also evident a culture that thinks An Garda Síochána is different from other public sector bodies and that the normal processes of financial procedures and transparent democratic accountability do not apply, as in Deputy Commissioner Rice’s letter of 18 September 2009, for example.

I again thank the committee for its time and its assistance to me as internal auditor of the Garda Vote.

Before calling the speakers, I note they have indicated in the following sequence: Deputies Connolly; MacSharry; Cullinane; Kelly; Catherine Murphy; McDonald and Madigan. The first speaker will have 20 minutes, the second speaker 15 minutes and every other speaker has ten minutes. I will be keeping tightly to that timescale in order that everybody has an opportunity to get in. There will be further opportunities during the course of the day.

There was one point I wanted to take up directly before we proceed on the opening statement and it concerns Mr. Kelly and Mr. Culhane. Mr. Kelly says in his opening statement, referring to a letter of 20 February 2017, that he finds this letter unacceptable because Mr. Culhane questions his motives, professional integrity and competence. I would like to ask Mr. Culhane about that letter. I am sure that he is familiar with it. We will get it up on the screen. This is the letter dated 20 February 2017. There is such a volume of documentation here today that it is going to be difficult to get it up on the screen but I will read the particular passage. It is Mr. Culhane I want to ask here because Mr. Kelly has specifically referred to that letter as totally unacceptable. I want to deal with that if possible.

Does Mr. Culhane have the letter to hand? There are two points I want to take up in it. I am reading from the end of page two. This is a letter addressed from Mr. Culhane to Mr. Kelly on the draft interim audit report just before it was finalised. In the fourth paragraph, at the end of the second page, Mr. Culhane writes to Mr. Kelly that at a meeting in the college he, Mr. Kelly, stated to Superintendent McCabe, the college administrator, that he, Mr. Kelly, believed that the college had offshore bank accounts. Did Mr. Culhane say that?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

Is he satisfied that Mr. Kelly said that?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I was at a meeting with Superintendent McCabe and he reported that to me. I am satisfied that Superintendent McCabe was telling me the truth.

Will Mr. Kelly give details of the offshore bank accounts to which he referred in his meeting with Superintendent McCabe?

Mr. Niall Kelly

The first thing I would say about those comments is that they are hearsay. Mr. Culhane was not at any meetings in the college that I attended. The second thing I would say is that I spent a lot of time in the college last summer. From roughly mid-June to mid-August, I was up and down to the college and I stayed over in the college. During that time, I talked to a lot of people. This is a normal process of doing an audit - one talks to a lot of people. I would not be doing my job properly if I had not broached the possibility, given the number of bank accounts that were presented and that evolved from the audit, that some of them could have been offshore. At the end of the day, I did not find any offshore bank accounts but I had to broach that possibility and I had to discuss that with management in the college.

Mr. Kelly is stating he has no evidence of any offshore bank accounts held by the college.

Mr. Niall Kelly

At this stage, no, but I examined that possibility as part of the audit.

Mr. Kelly found no evidence.

Mr. Niall Kelly

No.

Mr. Kelly is quoted as saying he believed the college had offshore accounts.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I do not think I-----

Mr. Kelly inquired about the matter.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I inquired; I do not think I ever said I believed.

I am raising this in the interest of the force because it has been widely reported in the media that there were offshore accounts. As far as I can attest, this letter appears to be from where the reference came. If Mr. Kelly is satisfied there are no offshore accounts, I would like him to confirm that because before the witnesses' arrival today, many people were of the view, as a result of this issue being raised in correspondence, that there may have been offshore accounts. Mr. Kelly is confirming that, to his knowledge, there are no offshore accounts.

Mr. Niall Kelly

At the moment, I have no knowledge that there are any offshore bank accounts.

Is Mr. Culhane satisfied that there are no offshore bank accounts?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes, absolutely.

I want to put that on record because people were rightly concerned about that issue. There are no offshore accounts and I would like to place that on record as others will ask questions about it during the course of the meeting. Does Mr. Culhane accept the interim audit report?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes, of course.

It is accepted by the Garda. In the second last paragraph of his letter to Mr. Kelly, Mr. Culhane states: "You have effectively set yourself up as "judge, jury and executioner" by your refusal to amend your report to reflect the additional correcting information given to you." Is that a fair comment? Would Mr. Culhane say that today? Does he still believe that?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I suppose that is a comment that I made in terms of looking at the historical development of the college and how it evolved over time. In terms of looking at the college now, with the current corporate governance focus, one would say that what happened in the college is not acceptable. The college was set up with those arrangements. That developed over time so I am just trying to draw on the point that if one looks at the historical development of the college from today's corporate governance eyes, it certainly is not acceptable. However, to give people a reasonable chance to defend their reputations, one has to reflect that they were operating under a regime which, by today's corporate governance practices, is not acceptable.

We will come back to Mr. Culhane in the course of the meeting. When he received the draft of the report in September he objected to many of the recommendations being included in the report. We received the responses he gave in which he objected to many of the recommendations being included. At that point, he said that legal advice would be required before the recommendations should be included in the report. I think that is the gist of some of Mr. Culhane's objections.

Mr. Michael Culhane

No, I did not object to the recommendations. I was aware of a lot of the issues that Mr. Kelly had identified. Before the recommendations could be implemented, a lot of legal advice would be required. Some of the recommendations included in the report still have not been implemented because the legal position still has not been resolved.

I did not ask about the implementation of the recommendations. The opening statement refers to the fact that legal issues remain to be resolved. Mr. Culhane seemed concerned about even including some of those recommendations in the report itself.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Certainly, if I gave that impression, I did not intend it to be that. I accept Mr. Kelly is an independent individual so he will reach his own conclusions. He does not need my imprimatur to include or exclude whatever he wishes in his reports. That has been my experience of Mr. Kelly since he joined the organisation in, I think, 2007.

I am reading the document, Interim Audit Report - Financial Procedures in the Garda College Templemore, from September. We have a copy of this report in relation to the draft recommendations. In relation to recommendation No. 8, Mr. Culhane wrote: "Until the legal position is resolved, it is not possible to implement this." Mr. Culhane has no problem with the recommendation being in the report but there might be difficulties implementing it.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Absolutely, I am happy that it is included in the report because if one goes back to my own reports in terms of some of the documentation I provided to the committee yesterday, I clearly stated that a lot of these issues were complex and there will be quite a significant number of issues to be resolved before they can be implemented. As I said, even today some of the recommendations have not been implemented because legal advice is still outstanding.

I wanted to clear up the issue of the offshore accounts in particular. While it is a small point, it is one that people latch on to. There are no offshore accounts and I do not want that matter to be hanging over the rest of the meeting. Deputy Catherine Connolly has 20 minutes.

The witnesses are all welcome back to the committee. I had intended to start with Mr. Kelly but I will first ask Mr. Culhane some questions. Does he accept the recommendations of the interim report?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I do, yes.

Mr. Culhane believes this is a legacy issue and the college was operating under different governance standards at the point that these issues-----

Mr. Michael Culhane

The audit report took place at a certain time but the matters which it was investigating commenced back maybe in the 1960s.

I understand that. Mr. Culhane is saying that it is not fair because looking back, people were operating under a different system at that time.

Mr. Michael Culhane

It is not so much operating under a different system but that in terms of the logic by which they were established, if one was starting now, one would not set up those types of structures.

The witnesses must forgive members if we are incorrect on certain matters but there is so much documentation. Looking through all the documentation, at all stages, Mr. Culhane has maintained that the Department of Justice and Equality was aware of the situation in the Garda college in relation to the money being used from the restaurant and going into the company and so on. He maintains the Department was aware that profit was being made. He made that point repeatedly.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I have made the point certainly in terms of the statement which was given to the college, which was that there should be a profit element in there so that funds could be accumulated in order to invest for facilities for the students.

Does Mr. Culhane agree with the statement made by Commissioner Rice - I think it was him but I get the titles mixed up - that this money belonged to the Garda College and should not go back to the Government?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No. It is also important to point out that I only got a copy of that minute in May 2017. I was not aware of that minute at all.

How long has Mr. Culhane been in his current position?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I have been in my position since 2000.

He will be aware of the 2006 report, the 2008 report and the-----

Mr. Michael Culhane

I only got a copy of the 2006 report in 2011.

Mr. Culhane was not aware of it before that.

Mr. Michael Culhane

No.

What about the 2008 report?

Mr. Michael Culhane

That is the report I undertook. It was undertaken by my staff.

That was done for Mr. McGee.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes, the McGee report.

When I read this, I have questions I would love to ask but I will come back to them in a moment. We should take the recommendations of the interim audit report and ask Mr. Culhane questions about the implementation of same and whether we have learned and whether we are going forward. That is what we tried to do on the previous occasion. Then we received correspondence from Mr. Barrett and Mr. Kelly and an extraordinary opening statement. Forgive me, but I will come back on track.

I believe people are swimming to save themselves at this point and I will take back that statement if I am proved wrong. I have seen correspondence from Mr. Culhane to the Commissioner in which he suggested that Mr. Barrett be charged under the Official Secrets Act. Did I misread that?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I did not say he should be charged. I said he may be in breach of it.

Mr. Culhane said it should be looked at.

Mr. Michael Culhane

It was a matter for the Commissioner to determine.

Why would Mr. Culhane make such a-----

Mr. Michael Culhane

When one is dealing with issues in An Garda Síochána, one should be able to have sufficient confidence with one's colleagues to be able to report these issues and to deal with them openly within the organisation. I do not believe it is necessary to prepare an independent report and then send it to oneself by registered mail. If there are issues in An Garda Síochána to be dealt with, they should be dealt with openly.

Not to go off on a tangent or anything like that, we had a tax audit in, I think, 2010, which resulted in An Garda Síochána having to pay penalties and charges of €12.7 million. I dealt with that issue. That was never a subject of a section 41 disclosure. It was dealt with in the normal course of events in terms of the management of the organisation. There are so many issues that come along on a daily basis or on a regular basis that one deals with them as best one can at the time.

I am a layperson looking at it. We have had all these reports that have not been acted upon. Is that not right? I do not know what happened to the 2006 report. The 2008 report made very strong recommendations.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

Mr. Culhane's colleague, Mr. Kelly, has said some were acted upon, some were reversed and some were not acted upon at all. Can Mr. Culhane stand over that?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I cannot stand over that because-----

Did Mr. Culhane say "can" or "cannot"?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I cannot. I can only give advice.

Can Mr. Culhane stand over that? Does he accept the 2008 report was not implemented?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I do, yes.

Mr. Kelly says clearly that parts of it that were implemented were reversed.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I accept his evaluation of that.

Mr. Culhane accepts that. Okay. Does he have confidence in his colleague, Mr. Barrett?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I accept his professionalism, yes.

At the same time Mr. Culhane would like him to be examined under the Official Secrets Act.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I had concerns in terms of the manner in which he was treating confidential documents.

Does Mr. Culhane still have concern?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Given the passage of time and on reflection, no, I do not.

Does he regret doing that?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I suppose with the benefit of hindsight, it probably was not wise to make that statement.

Mr. Barrett might-----

Mr. Barrett, that is the question for you; go right ahead.

Mr. John Barrett

Tá rud éigin a rá agam. I have asked three times, myself personally, four times through my solicitor to have the document - which has just been referred to and was released to this committee yesterday - given to me. Some 85% of the document that was eventually released under freedom of information - consider how this might play - was redacted in protection of the very issues the finance director has not discussed. That reflects the situation in its reality. This correspondence will be made available to the committee; it is important that it has it. I discovered the existence of that letter almost a year to the day after it had been written. The interesting inversion of trust that was presented to the committee appals me. We requested, legitimately, a letter written about me that I had no knowledge of, which alleges a potential criminal offence. Rights of natural justice, constitutional procedure - none of that existed. I discovered it yesterday as being included in the pack to this committee.

To which letter is Mr. Barrett referring?

Mr. John Barrett

The letter of 25 October 2015 from Michael Culhane.

I wish to clarify that Mr. Barrett was not aware of this. It was not provided to him under the request he made and yet it was provided to this committee yesterday.

Mr. John Barrett

Correct. Yes.

It is dated 24 October - the Commissioner thing. Is that the letter?

It is frankly incredible.

Mr. John Barrett

The correspondence from Felix McTiernan, the managing partner of Noble Law Solicitors, will be happily made available to the committee. On the efforts we made to have this dealt with, I wrote directly, myself, to the Commissioner when I became aware this letter existed. I asked for a copy-----

How many times did Mr. Barrett write to the Commissioner?

Mr. John Barrett

I wrote to the Commissioner three times to the best of my knowledge. I have the correspondence here and I can show it to the committee in its totality. It is extraordinary.

That correspondence-----

Sorry. Deputy Connolly has the floor. The members will all get their opportunity.

Mr. John Barrett

My apologies.

No apologies needed. At this point what is emerging is so difficult.

Perhaps Mr. Barrett can talk to us. When did he come into this organisation?

Mr. John Barrett

On 3 October 2014.

I ask Mr. Barrett to take us through his knowledge of the interim audit report of the Garda College at Templemore which is before us.

Mr. John Barrett

I joined the organisation. It is a large complex organisation. The Templemore training facility was part of human resources and people development. I became interested in the budgeting of it and I began to ask questions about financial arrangements in the Garda College, because our actual overtime budgets were running ahead of that allowed for. The questions I asked were not answered to my satisfaction. In my youth I did a BComm and for a while I tried to teach management accounting, so I have a very vague and distant knowledge of it. I have used it throughout my career by virtue of necessity. However, the questions were not satisfactorily answered. I began to learn of the restaurant situation wherein within the Garda organisation what I assumed was a State entity was in fact an entity operating privately and independent of my line ownership in the organisation. From that became the issues concerning the shop, concerning the golf club, concerning the farm-----

All of those issues-----

Mr. John Barrett

All of this manifested itself on foot of questions I asked.

They have been clearly outlined in the interim reports and the progress report.

Mr. John Barrett

Yes.

What was Mr. Barrett's role in that regard? What did he do or what happened?

Mr. John Barrett

I think the document I submitted deals with the chronology in some fine detail. This became clear to me in June 2015. There is a series of meetings there, including one on 30 June with Mr. Culhane and Mr. McGee. From there, a steering group was established by the then chief administration officer, Cyril Dunne. It had its first meeting in the college on 2 July that year. There was a-----

He has since retired.

Mr. John Barrett

He has; he is now working elsewhere.

He was to have been here today, but he will be here another day.

Mr. John Barrett

I understand that is the case.

That first meeting took place on 2 July in the college. I took one action from that. I took an action to synthesise the 2010 and 2008 reports. That is done in a document I prepared at Cyril Dunne's request so that he could then take it to the audit committee, which was scheduled to meet on 15 July.

Did it go to the audit committee?

Mr. John Barrett

My understanding is that it did not, but Mr. Howard was-----

(Interruptions).

Sorry, we will just let Mr. Barrett finish.

Mr. John Barrett

I understand it did not.

I ask Mr. Barrett to continue.

Mr. John Barrett

The meeting in the college on 2 July in effect was the kick-off of this review or discussion as to what we were dealing with and to try to scope out where it was at. Mr. Culhane was at the meeting as were Superintendent Nolan, Chief Superintendent Anne Marie McMahon, Cyril Dunne and myself. Mr. Ken Ruane was not at that meeting, but the suggestion was that he would be joining that steering group. At that point, even though it was pretty clear that the complexity demanded internal audit, the view was taken by Cyril Dunne that we should not at that point engage with Niall Kelly.

There was a series of discussions. There is a very comprehensive chronology of those discussions through the month of July in my engagement with Mr. Ruane, largely because I went to him for advice.

Mr. Barrett subsequently made a note of all of this.

Mr. John Barrett

Yes, I did.

There is a chronology of all the events, as Mr. Barrett saw them.

Mr. John Barrett

My engagement-----

I have read it; I have seen it.

Mr. John Barrett

My engagement is in my report.

Mr. Barrett was attempting to bring accountability and raise issues.

Mr. John Barrett

I begin by making what I consider to be inquiries concerning arrangements, which are outside the line command. I am the line manager for the Garda College, but there is a range of activities going on, if one likes, outside the scope of my control and they are significant. In the early stages of this I had some very good help from Barry McGee. He was the author of the 2008 report. It was very quickly visible that despite the reports of 2008 and 2010 - this was now 2015 - the issues remained extant; they were there. I have to say I had never envisaged that arrangements so repugnant to the blue book were, in effect, allowed to continue and, as I said in my report, in plain view.

Mr. Barrett made his views known.

Mr. John Barrett

I did.

Did he receive assistance?

Mr. John Barrett

My report was written with absolute good grace. At the point at which Cyril Dunne asked me to prepare the document, I saw absolutely no difficulty because his intention as stated to me was to bring it to the audit committee on the 15th.

For me that looked entirely appropriate and like good governance, so I had no concerns until I learned later in the month, at the meeting on the 27th in the college, involving the Commissioner, the acting deputies and Cyril Dunne that the report had not been delivered to Mr. Howard and his committee. If the Deputy reads my cover note on my report, it very clearly states that the purpose of my writing that report was that it would be so delivered to Mr. Howard and his committee.

What did Mr. Barrett think about that?

Mr. John Barrett

I was shocked when I discovered on the 27th hat it had not gone there. I am not trying to pretend that I have the answer to world hunger regarding accounting but I had spent a period of my life doing due diligence for multinational companies out of Silicon Valley. I know this stuff.

Would Mr. Barrett have expected that it would go to the audit committee and be taken seriously?

Mr. John Barrett

Yes, of course. There was a level of detail in it. I challenge any of those the Deputy might seek advice from to compare and contrast the report that I put together over a weekend with what it is that Niall Kelly discovered in his report some 16 months later. The principal issues are very largely called out in my report of 6 July 2015.

Okay. Mr. Kelly wanted to come in and I interrupted.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I was just going to say that the points Deputy Connolly was making were included in my opening statement.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I will not waste time but some of the points Deputy Connolly was making were already addressed in my opening statement.

I was trying not to make points, I was just trying to ask questions. Mr. Kelly should feel free to clarify the position.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I would just concur with Mr. Barrett that, in effect, his analysis in July 2015 was completely verified by the audit report that was completed.

Issues were raised that had been raised previously. Mr. Kelly felt they were now being taken seriously. They were supposed to go to the audit committee but they did not go to the audit committee. Was that to Mr. Howard?

Mr. Michael Howard

That is correct, yes.

Where does Mr. Howard come into this? Why did the report not go to the audit committee?

Mr. Michael Howard

Obviously, I cannot answer why it did not go to the audit committee but I would very much-----

Could Mr. Howard confirm that it did not?

Mr. Michael Howard

The audit committee has taken a very serious view of that. There are a couple of general points that I would like to get across. Before I say anything else, in case I do not get an opportunity to say this, the audit committee has formally commended Niall Kelly on his work in relation to this. I think that I should say that. In approaching this, I cannot ignore the fact there has been some controversy and debate. I want to make it clear that Mr. Kelly was performing a task assigned to him by his employer. There is no question that he ever had any motivation other than to do that task impartially and objectively. Given the scale of the issue as it subsequently emerged, I devoted an enormous amount of time to this, way out of what one would normally devote as chair of an audit committee, to reviewing the work of the internal auditor. Niall Kelly was always completely open with me. I am satisfied and my committee is satisfied that the conclusions in his interim report are very firmly grounded on fact. I think I should say that before I say anything else.

I would, if I may, briefly skip through the narrative as it emerged from the point of view of the audit committee. In case anyone is a little unclear of the role of the audit committee, I am a retired civil servant. There are five people on the audit committee, a deputy commissioner who sits there permanently and four outside members, one of whom has to be chair. In addressing the members I want to say that the committee addressed this as an issue on which we had consensus. There were no divided opinions. I should start by saying that the matter was raised first with the audit committee on 30 September but it was raised verbally as an AOB item.

Was that 30 September 2015?

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes, 2015. Again, I want to be very careful because I am going to stick entirely to the facts as they were revealed to me. The normal business of audit is conducted in arrears, so in the routine, Niall Kelly would complete audit reports, they would be brought to the committee, they would be reviewed, we would approve them, we might question them and we would go on. Our role is to advise the Commissioner on matters of finance, audit, risk, governance and so forth. Obviously we address other things at meetings. There was a very busy agenda that day and at the end of the meeting this was raised verbally as an AOB item. There was no briefing given to us. I have reflected on how I will phrase this: neither I nor any of the other outside members of the committee took from that briefing any sense of the importance of this issue as it subsequently emerged. Ultimately, this issue was so serious that the Accounting Officer had to amend the statement of internal financial control. I do not believe that has happened before on the Garda Vote so, objectively speaking, this was a very serious issue. It was raised, we discussed it a bit and we were asked if we would include it in the 2016 programme of work, which was done - that was Mr. Kelly's report in its time - but no indication was given to us that this was different. I will again confine it to what was my impression and I will put this in these terms: I worked in the Civil Service for 35 years. I do not believe that I was a naïve or uninformed listener to that briefing.

I will be stuck for time and there are serious questions to be asked.

Mr. Michael Howard

I am sorry.

No, I thank him for outlining the background. He was not aware of the importance of it and it was raised under AOB at that time. When did the audit committee become aware of the very serious issues that were in question?

Mr. Michael Howard

I became aware of that in May of the following year. Niall Kelly at that stage had commenced his work and he, as was quite appropriate, would often come and speak to me about issues.

Did Mr. Howard become aware of it in May 2016?

Mr. Michael Howard

At the end of May 2016.

Was that the first time Mr. Howard became aware of this?

Mr. Michael Howard

I want to be very clear so that there is no misunderstanding. It was mentioned as an AOB item in September, mentioned literally as a one-liner at the next meeting in December as something to keep an eye on; I mentioned it as one of a list of nine items that we were keeping an eye on, so we did know the issue existed but we had no notion as to what was entailed in it.

Had Mr. Howard spoken to Mr. Barrett or Mr. Kelly?

Mr. Michael Howard

No. I met Mr. Barrett at Mr. Kelly's suggestion because he spoke to me as he should about his concerns – his work had begun. At my request John Barrett saw me and spent a considerable period of time outlining to me-----

Mr. Michael Howard

I believe that was 2 June.

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes, 2016. That was one year later. Again, I will synthesise this as best I can. Up to that point in time - I know there is a danger that we read history backwards, partly due to what Niall Kelly has said to me and very much elaborated by John Barrett – I had previously thought this was an issue that pertained primarily to the ownership of land. If I could put in grossly over simple terms, that it was a static issue. The land was not going anywhere. In my own work I have seen this, where one can have issues about the ownership of land, so it was important but I was not aware that it was serious. What changed for me when John Barrett briefed me was that I realised this was a dynamic issue. This was continuing because the whole time the figures – off the top of my head it was about €77 per trainee garda per week, so if one has 400 or 500 gardaí, one could have €30,000 odd a week.

As an audit committee the members were not aware of it. The CAO raised the issue under any other business. In December, it was raised under any other business again.

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes, as I mentioned.

It was not put off. Finally, in May the committee began to take it seriously, or it was brought to its attention.

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes.

Prior to that there was a report in 2006, 2008 and 2010, in particular the 2008 report, highlighting the very serious issues. Was that never brought to Mr. Howard’s attention?

Mr. Michael Howard

It was never brought to the attention of the predecessor committee. I should say by the way, as an aside, this is an issue that the audit committee takes very seriously and we have addressed this formally to the Commissioner and to Garda management.

Okay. I will finish with Mr. Kelly. I want him to start at the beginning with his interim report. Each progress report said there was "no confidence", that he could not stand over it, and provide "no assurance". There were four points, one was positive while three out of four were negative. Today, is he anyway reassured by the steering committee that is in place or by the steps that have been put in place?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I have not concluded a review audit and until I do that I cannot give an opinion.

I refer to the steps that have been taken.

Mr. Niall Kelly

There are steps being advanced at the moment but I do not know how far they are addressing the issues. I cannot really give another opinion until I do another report, a review audit, and review those issues.

We do not have much time. We get the point. The steering committee is dealing with it for now and Mr. Kelly will review it and until then he cannot comment.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes, I will review it and give my opinion.

My question was if Mr. Kelly had confidence in the steps that have been taken to date. Is he still standing by what he said, that he cannot stand over it and that he can give no assurance?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Until I conclude a review audit I cannot change my current opinion.

I thank Mr. Kelly.

As head of legal affairs, would Mr. Ruane's understanding be that one's responsibility to the law is superseded by one's responsibility to one's superior or line manager?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

I wish to preface any remarks I make before the committee by saying that I am instructed by the Commissioner for the purposes of today's meeting that she is not waiving privilege but is maintaining legal privilege over all advices that I have furnished. That said, I am free to discuss any documentation furnished to the committee or any matters as to fact or legal assistance. The Deputy has asked my opinion as opposed to any legal advice that I have given-----

No, Mr. Ruane is the head of legal affairs for a State body and I am asking, in that context, is his responsibility primarily to the law or is that responsibility superseded by responsibility to his line manager.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

No, my view of this is very clear: responsibility to the law is absolute.

That is fine. Mr. Ruane just pointed out that he has taken direction from his line manager in terms of his activities here today, is that the case?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

When I was notified that I was being called as a witness, I thought it only correct that I would seek advices from my client as to whether privilege was being maintained because, in respect of my professional obligations, the only person who can waive privilege on legal advices I have given is the client. I will try to be as helpful as possible.

Did any of the other five witnesses receive any contact from line managers in respect of their testimony here today? Yes or no will do.

Mr. Niall Kelly

No.

Is everyone saying no? Every single person? All right.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

To be absolutely clear, my view is that the law is there to be complied with. That is my view.

How does Mr Culhane explain that more than €2.3 million in private bank accounts, credit union accounts, other accounts and equities was not returned to the Exchequer?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I do not have executive responsibility for the college.

If Mr. Culhane is financial director of the organisation, is it fair to say the buck stops with him?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No.

Who does the buck stop with?

Mr. Michael Culhane

The Accounting Officer.

What is Mr. Culhane's role if, on one hand, €2.3 million can be in various accounts in Templemore and, on the other, there is an accounting manager?

Mr. Michael Culhane

My role in that case is to advise the Commissioner. The funds of €2.3 million were accumulated over time, I presume by the college restaurant the Deputy refers to. That was part of the mechanism that was established at the time. The €2.3 million should never have been allowed to grow to that extent and I did not discover it until we compiled the report in 2008.

Mr. Culhane was aware of that in 2008. From the documentation that was provided only this morning, which was disruptive as we were trying to prepare for a meeting to take place minutes later, he says that he advised that matters be brought to the attention of the Minister in 2008. Is that right?

Mr. Michael Culhane

In 2008 I advised that the matter in terms of the action plan should be reported to the internal audit of the Comptroller and Auditor General and to the Secretary General.

Did the report not mention the Minister as well?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No. I said it should go to the Secretary General.

When that did not happen, was Mr. Culhane not concerned or did he just decide - because they did not do that - to forget about it?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I did have a concern. The action plan I laid out was pretty clear. I was reporting to the chief administrative officer and he took on board my recommendations and communicated them to the Commissioner.

As the longest-serving member of the senior management team - and, arguably, the most experienced - and given his years of service and the fact that his obligations are to the law rather than to a line manager or practice, when Mr. Culhane saw that these matters were not being dealt with, was he not of the view that he needed to go further and contact the Comptroller and Auditor General to say he had concerns?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I reported the matter to the chief accounting officer and he, in turn, took ownership of it and communicated with the Commissioner. It is clear from the Commissioner's correspondence at the time that he accepted the recommendations and instructed that they be implemented.

I am not trying to be adversarial but time is short and I do have to cut in sometimes if I have already got the answer I am looking for. I mean no disrespect. Does Mr. Culhane see An Garda Síochána, from a financial perspective, as a series of pigeonholes? Is it the case that once a matter is out of his pigeonhole, it is in another person's and he does not have to worry about it?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No, I would not go as far as that.

How would Mr. Culhane reconcile the fact that someone highlights these matters as not being addressed with the fact that they would appear, at least from where we sit, as embezzlement, as one colleague described it, or, at the least, very poor management? Some people might even call what happened theft. In his opening statement, Niall Kelly indicated that, under the rules and the law, money must go back to the State and that it did not do so in this instance. Mr. Culhane was aware of it, albeit that he put it into Cyril Dunne’s pigeonhole and it out of his own remit. How can Mr. Culhane reconcile seeking a criminal investigation into a colleague for highlighting that these matters had not been dealt with, albeit that he had passed them to the pigeonhole next door? Given the criteria he applied to suggesting that Mr. Barrett should be investigated - with potential criminal charges involved - is it not Mr. Culhane, who, at least by virtue of his title as finance director, should at this point be investigated with a view to possible criminal issues?

Mr. Michael Culhane

There is a reporting structure within An Garda Síochána.

That does not supersede the law as we have heard from Mr. Ruane.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I agree 100% that it does not supersede the law.

Was Mr. Culhane party to the culture mentioned by Mr. Kelly to "circle the wagons", I think was the term he used? Did he say "We will circle the wagons and bury that until we know how much we can contain before we let anything out, and if anyone such as John Barrett or anybody else puts up their hand, by God, we will criminally investigate them or put whatever barriers we can in their way to ensure we do not look bad"? Did that supersede the law?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No. There is no excuse whatsoever for superseding the law. The law applies to everybody and I fully-----

As a result of that, would Mr. Culhane withdraw the content of the letter, dated 24 October 2015, in which he threw a colleague whose professionalism he acknowledged a minute ago under the bus? Mr. Culhane wanted him criminally investigated because he was concerned that he was out to damage the Garda rather than uphold the law. Is that culture evident and is Mr. Culhane party to it?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I am not party to that culture.

I am bound to say from the evidence, including the documentation and Mr. Culhane's answers, that he is not just a part of it but he promotes it.

Mr. Michael Culhane

No, the Deputy can see the minute from Deputy Commissioner Rice which was quoted in Mr. Kelly's opening statement. I was trying to work in that type of environment and was meeting the same type of opposition. I was operating within a difficult environment in terms of what I could achieve or do within that period. Despite the fact that-----

Are environment and culture the same thing? When Mr. Culhane began in 2000, did he have to embrace this culture whereby Kieran Kenny, Cyril Dunne and John Keegan said "This is not to go to internal audit"? Was it the culture for them to let him know when the law could be adhered to and that, in the meantime, Mr. Culhane was to do as they said? Was that the environment or culture that he came into, that he is describing?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I certainly would not subscribe to that culture.

Was Mr. Culhane forced, because of the environment that existed, to subscribe to that culture?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I do not believe I was, no.

Is Mr Kelly wrong in what he said in the final two paragraphs of his statement, namely, that there was a culture of "This will go away. Let's sit on it and suppress it."? To us, as members of the committee listening to Mr. Culhane's answers, that appears to be the case. It is a question of containment and suppression. The default position is "There is nothing to see here", until, in the event that a colleague is criminally investigated and found guilty for trying to uphold the law, a decision is made to come clean. Mr. Culhane calls it the environment. I call it the culture. The environment was twisted and corrupt and subversion was the order of the day.

The Deputy should hold back on using the word "corruption".

This is an opinion.

It is not an opinion of the committee, it is a personal view.

I am putting the question. Does Mr. Culhane feel those words do not adequately capture what is coming out in evidence here today?

Mr. Michael Culhane

The 2008 report - the McGee report - was done under my direction. Barry McGee reports to me.

I apologise for the documentation only arriving to the committee yesterday.

It was this morning.

Mr. Michael Culhane

This morning, sorry. With regard to the minute of the 7 January 2008, I was writing to the assistant commissioner in charge of strategy who had responsibility for the college. I wrote to him to inform him that Barry McGee would be carrying out this audit and that he should make all records available to Mr. McGee. The assistant commissioner confirmed to me that all records would be made available. Barry McGee carried out the report and it was submitted to me. In the documentation the committee received this morning, in the last paragraph of the minute dated 25 May 2008, I gave advice that the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality and the Comptroller and Auditor General should be informed about the matters. There is an action plan I set out, which is attached to that minute. The last paragraph is headed as the disclosure to the Comptroller and Auditor General and to the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality, and I also mentioned informing the internal auditor.

We have all that in Mr. Culhane's letter. I am sorry for cutting across him again and for being so tough on him, but these are very important matters that deal with large amounts of taxpayers' money.

Having done that and having asked for the report in 2008, how in God's name can Mr. Culhane reconcile looking for, effectively, a criminal investigation into a colleague who was trying to see these matters through to a conclusion after which, when it was stuck in Cyril Dunne's pigeonhole, very little, if anything, happened?

Mr. Michael Culhane

With regard to Mr. Barrett's statement, at various meetings I spoke with him about the college and the matters that were - as it was said in the report - outside the general ledger, which is off the books as it were. I also directed Barry McGee to email Mr. Barrett a copy of the 2008 report. I was being open with him as much as possible on the issues surrounding the college finance.

With regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the McGee report, we encountered difficulties with Deputy Commissioner Rice. I continued to work away on that in the interim. When Mr. Barrett came on with executive responsibility for the college, I gave him a copy of the McGee report in the expectation that he would start to implement those recommendations since he had the line responsibility for the college.

What is Mr. Barrett's assessment of that last contribution?

Mr. John Barrett

I think it is fanciful, quite frankly. The circumstances under which co-operation was not forthcoming is a reality. This was an uphill push. I could not understand why. The fact that the matter has remained in existence in the period since 2008 speaks for itself. That is clear from the Deputy's questioning. If these matters were of the scale and urgency that they clearly are to this committee then, as a consequence, they should have been dealt with much more expeditiously.

Mr. Niall Kelly

On this point, I find it incredible that, given the first paragraph of the McGee report, the internal audit was not informed at the time in 2008. It did not happen. Why was the finance directorate conducting audits? There was an internal audit function in 2008. I was head of it. Why was that work not being done by internal audit? I pose these two questions.

Can Mr. Culhane advise the committee on whether someone else could inquire into a matter other than internal audit?

Mr. Michael Culhane

We said we carried out a review. Barry McGee referred to the report as a shadow audit but it was a review of the structures within the Garda College. It did not get into the fine detail that the internal audit did. For example, with the transfer of €100,000 to the boat club, we never discovered that information because we did not delve into that level of detail. It was looking at the broad level of structures inside the college and the operation of the restaurant, the shop and the Garda College Sportsfield Company. We looked at the issues around the golf club also. It was not a detailed audit. It was a review that I instructed Barry McGee to undertake.

I ask Mr. Kelly to respond to that.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I do not have the McGee report in front of me but the first paragraph points out that there are serious risks and serious breaches of financial procedures. Even if it was a review, I believe this should have gone immediately to internal audit and we should have been allowed to do a full audit to go in to the depth required at that stage in 2008, rather than waiting several years. Mr. Ruane has just handed me the McGee report: "Our examination and review have uncovered discrepancies in compliance to public financial procedures and exposes the organisation to substantial risk in terms of the internal control environment and governance environment as applied to Templemore college." Given this sentence in the report, I believe that internal audit should have been informed immediately at that stage.

We have a very brief time so I hope the witnesses will be distinct in their responses. I wish to ask all the witnesses a question that requires only a "Yes" or "No" answer. Do all the witnesses understand the role and function of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the role and function of the Committee of Public Accounts and the role and function of internal audit? Is everyone here aware of those functions and responsibilities?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Absolutely.

I must say that I found Mr. Kelly's opening statement today to be very serious and alarming. It was almost explosive in its content. I am sure that Mr. Kelly would have been aware of that when he wrote his opening statement. He makes very serious allegations and I want to examine the allegations made in that statement. In his opening statement Mr. Kelly made reference to interference, non-co-operation and the withholding of information from internal audit. Who exactly was not co-operating, interfering or withholding information from internal audit?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I think I set it out fairly-----

Say it again please for this committee. Who exactly? If Mr. Kelly does not want to give their names, he can gives their title and role.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I break it down into three periods. I mention a string of emails from 2008 to 2011, and I believe I have this document here. They were the chief administrative officer, the executive director of finance, the chief superintendent in the college and the administrator in the college - who are two separate people. I have already mentioned that as part of the documentation I included information on a string of emails from 15 April 2010.

For the record of the committee, is Mr. Kelly saying that the chief administrative officer, who I would assume was the previous officer, Cyril Dunne-----

Mr. Niall Kelly

The one before that.

Before that, and the executive director of finance, was that Mr. Culhane?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

-----and the chief superintendent and the administrator were all part of the non-co-operation, interference and withholding of information? Is that his view? Is that who he is talking about?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes, that is who I am talking about.

Is Mr. Kelly is talking about Mr. Culhane also?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Does Mr. Culhane believe he was part of the interference, non-co-operation or withholding of information from internal audit?

Mr. Michael Culhane

The Barry McGee report was in interim document that left a lot of questions unanswered. I return to my minute from 2008 in which I recommended to the chief administrative officer that internal audit would be brought into this matter.

In his opinion, was Mr. Culhane part of the interference, non-co-operation or withholding of information from internal audit?

Mr. Michael Culhane

To be clear, I report to the-----

Can Mr. Culhane answer the question please?

Mr. Michael Culhane

-----requests go in through the lines so the answers should be coming out. If Mr. Kelly is looking for additional information, it should be coming from the chief administrative officer.

We are dealing with very serious issues here. We have the head on internal audit alleging - it is his opinion and he is doing a body of work - that individuals were part of interfering with, not co-operating with and withholding information from an internal audit. By virtue of that, they were also withholding information from the Committee of Public Accounts, from the Comptroller and Auditor General and from the purview of other agencies. These are very serious allegations and one of the people mentioned is Mr. Culhane.

I will ask Mr. Culhane a straight question. Does he accept that or not?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I do not accept it.

I will refer to a couple of letters Mr. Culhane did write. We dealt earlier with a letter dated 24 October 2015, relating to Mr. Barrett and addressed to the Commissioner and other individuals. Does Mr. Culhane have a copy of the letter?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

Mr. Culhane wrote that he had a number of concerns about Mr. Barrett, who had stated that the matter was not going away and that he would not let it go away. It stated that Mr. Barrett had said the Commissioner should make a section 41 disclosure and that the matter should be reported to the Comptroller and Auditor General. Mr. Culhane wrote that John Barrett had stated that if the activities at the college were not fraudulent they were, at best, irregular. Which of these issues did Mr. Culhane find objectionable?

Mr. Michael Culhane

It comes back to context.

Mr. Culhane keeps saying that but I am not looking for context. Mr. Culhane said Mr. Barrett had stated that the matter was not going away and that he would not let it go away. The letter stated that Mr. Barrett had said the Commissioner should make a section 41 disclosure and that the matter should be reported to the Comptroller and Auditor General. Mr. Barrett had also stated that if the activities at the college were not fraudulent they were at best irregular. Which of these issues did Mr. Culhane find objectionable? Did he find all of them objectionable?

Mr. Michael Culhane

There were issues relating to the college and I could not object to those because I did a report on the same subject myself, a copy of which I gave to John Barrett. Mr. Barrett made his views known but I recorded them as facts.

No, you go further than that. You said you found Mr. Barrett's statements disturbing and alarming.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

Which statements were disturbing and which were alarming to you?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I was trying to summarise the position on the previous six points. If there are issues in the organisation they should be thrashed out among the management team and dealt with.

To which issues was Mr. Culhane referring when he called them disturbing and alarming? I mentioned the six issues earlier and I asked which of them he found objectionable. Mr. Culhane answered that he found none objectionable, even though it is clear from the letter that he did find them objectionable. Mr. Culhane went on to say the statements made by Mr. Barrett were disturbing and alarming and now he is saying it is because Mr. Barrett wanted to use the information he had in a way he felt was appropriate. Was that a concern for Mr. Culhane?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I find it unusual that a senior officer in the Garda Síochána would have found it necessary to post something to himself by registered post. The issues should be dealt with within the organisation, though not in a secretive fashion. The organisation is big enough to take on these things and deal with them.

Mr. Culhane misses my point. What he has just said goes right to the heart of why we are here in relation to the period from 2006 to 2016. He said the issue should be dealt with within the organisation. In other words, he is saying, "Circle the wagons". He is confirming everything that Mr. Kelly and Mr. Barrett said and his mindset was to deal internally with all the evidence which had been presented to this committee. His mindset was to keep all this evidence in-house, away from the purview of the Committee of Public Accounts and the Comptroller and Auditor General. It was not the responsibility of any individual to keep it internal. The people in question had statutory responsibilities to give this information to other organisations.

I asked all witnesses if they were aware of the role and the function of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Committee of Public Accounts and internal audit. Mr. Culhane said he was aware of these functions and roles so he will understand that it was not a case of keeping these in-house or internal, but of making sure people got the information. Was Mr. Culhane part of withholding information from any of the organisations to which I refer?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No. I stated in my minute of May 2008 that all those organisations should be informed about developments in the college.

Really? Mr. Culhane said, in the same letter of 24 October, "in taking this unusual action to report this matter to you [the Commissioner] I am concerned that you should be aware of the very serious statements made by Mr. Barrett and the implied threat of some unauthorised action on his part which will damage An Garda Síochána". Mr. Culhane goes on to say Mr. Barrett, "is attempting to undermine my professional reputation". What did Mr. Culhane mean by "the implied threat of some unauthorised action"?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I had no idea what he was going to do with the information which had been collected. It was a general statement.

Mr. Culhane cannot just say he made a "general statement". He wrote a letter to the Commissioner and talked about Mr. Barrett in very disparaging terms, about his manner and the way he went about his business. He said his reputation was undermined and there was an implied threat of unauthorised action. He needs to be able to substantiate that today. What did Mr. Culhane mean by "the implied threat of some unauthorised action"? Mr. Culhane was being specific so what was he referring to? Please answer the question.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I was concerned that there might be some leakage to the press but issues such as these should have been dealt with as part of the formal process to send information to the internal auditor or Comptroller and Auditor General.

Mr. Culhane did not trust Mr. Barrett and felt he might go to the press.

Mr. Michael Culhane

It was a concern, though I did not say I did not trust him.

If Mr. Culhane had a concern that the implied threat of some unauthorised action meant going to the press it would suggest issues around trust.

Mr. Michael Culhane

There was a possibility of him doing that.

Did Mr. Barrett go to the press?

Mr. John Barrett

No.

Did you have any intention of going to the press?

Mr. John Barrett

No, I had not.

There is a pattern in this and it goes to the heart of whether or not Mr. Culhane did his job. I am trying to figure this out and I am not stating that he did not do his job, merely that we have to examine the issues. In another letter to Mr. Niall Kelly, head of internal audit, of 13 October 2016, Mr. Culhane said Mr. Kelly's report was misleading. Does Mr. Culhane still believe his report was misleading?

Mr. Michael Culhane

The report is not misleading in terms of the substance of the issues but the historical context was omitted. The historical context explains why we are in the position we are in today.

The report deals with the historical context. It deals with the incomplete report of 2016, the 2008 report, the 2010 report and correspondence between Commissioners and other people. It references Mr. Howard so it does deal with the historical issues. What does Mr. Culhane mean, then, when he says the report was misleading? He goes on to say Mr. Kelly made defamatory comments and threatened legal proceedings against him. We have a situation in which the head of the finance directorate is threatening legal action against the head of internal audit, saying he found his work to be "unprofessional, misleading and mischievous". Mr. Culhane said the contents of the draft report were unprofessional, misleading and mischievous. Please explain how the report was unprofessional, misleading and mischievous.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I felt there was inadequate reference to the historical structures and context in which the issues arose. For example, the investments arose because of the profit-----

I am putting direct questions to Mr. Culhane on each of the three words you used.

Mr. Culhane used those words, not me. He accused Mr. Kelly of being unprofessional. Does he now wish to withdraw the statement in his letter that he was unprofessional?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Sorry, do I withdraw-----

Does Mr. Culhane wish to withdraw today the claim made in his letter that Mr. Kelly's report was unprofessional?

Mr. Michael Culhane

It was professional in so far as his findings were correct.

Mr. Culhane said that Mr. Kelly's report was unprofessional. He also said it was misleading. Does he still hold the view that Mr. Kelly's report was misleading?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Again, I must return to the position that the historical context in which all of these issues arose was not adequately detailed in-----

The historical context response does not cut it. I am sick of hearing that from Mr. Culhane in response to every question. I have already explained to him the historic context was dealt with in Mr. Kelly's report. There are two sets of correspondence, one in relation to Mr. Barrett, in which Mr. Culhane attempts to undermine his work, and another in relation to Mr. Kelly, in which he attempts to undermine his work. Mr. Culhane states in writing that the report was unprofessional, misleading and mischievous. Mr. Culhane has a duty and a responsibility to inform this committee today why he believed that Mr. Kelly's report was unprofessional, misleading and mischievous.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

Mr. Culhane has not done that. Perhaps he would now explain how the report was unprofessional, misleading and mischievous.

Mr. Michael Culhane

There are a lot of working parts in the report and in the operation of An Garda Síochána. It was a summary of views that I held in terms of the contents of the report. I accept I have repeated this several times previously but there was a history in regard to the college which was not adequately explained.

My final question is to Mr. Kelly and Mr. Barrett. Does Mr. Kelly believe that the letter in which Mr. Culhane said that his report was unprofessional, misleading and mischievous, and, further, asked him to amend his report, was a direct interference in his work and an attempt to get him to either water down or lessen the content of his report?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Did Mr. Barrett have a similar experience?

Mr. John Barrett

With respect to the letter written in October 2015, I never saw the letter until yesterday.

Now that Mr. Barrett has seen it, would he have seen it as an attempt to undermine his work?

Mr. John Barrett

Absolutely. It is a very deliberate corralling of my obligation to deal with and illuminate these matters which had long since been left to continue.

Does Mr. Culhane not consider it a serious matter that the head of internal audit and the head of human resources take the same view as me that he was seeking to undermine their work? We talked earlier about the circling of the wagons and, as mentioned by Mr. Culhane, the need to keep matters in-house. Does Mr. Culhane not see that he is part of the problem and that in terms of what he put in writing the view of two senior people in civilian roles in An Garda Síochána is that he was trying to interfere in their work?

The Deputy's time has expired.

Mr. Culhane should answer the question.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I do not see myself as being part of the problem. If anything, I see myself as being part of the solution, given the actions that I have taken on the issues identified in the 2008 report. I have no desire to undermine the professionalism of these two gentlemen. Mr. Niall Kelly is an independent auditor and he produces his reports without need for reference to me. I do not see that I have been interfering in his independence.

Mr. Culhane attempted to have Mr. Kelly alter his report. He threatened him with legal action. He said that if Mr. Kelly did not amend his report he would seek legal advice and would take legal action yet he is now telling me that he did not try to interfere with the work of internal audit. It is incredible for him to say that. How can he threaten legal action against the head of internal audit, almost unprecedented, and then say that was not an attempt to interfere with his work? Mr. Culhane cannot say that.

Does Mr. Culhane stand over the sentence, "....in omitting these facts, the report is unprofessional, misleading and mischievous....." today, 31 May 2017? Would he say that today?

Mr. Michael Culhane

On reflection, it was probably an unwise use of those words.

Would Mr. Culhane like to withdraw that statement, which is in writing before this committee?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes, I would like to withdraw it.

That is helpful. Mr. Culhane said earlier that he accepts the report.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I did.

It would be inconsistent for him to say that he accepts the report and leave that statement stand.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Correct.

So, that statement is withdrawn.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

The next speaker is Deputy Alan Kelly.

I do not know where to start.

The Deputy has ten minutes.

I could do with ten hours. I think Mr. Culhane is having a volte-face moment given what he has just withdrawn. I find that incredible. For me, Mr. Culhane's evidence to this committee is probably the most incredible evidence I have heard as a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, and not in a good way. I have been following the issues in regard to the Garda Training College for a long time. These can be divided into two categories, namely, issues of process not dealt with for decades and financial transactions. There are so many issues in regard to process that we cannot get near the majority of the transactions in the limited time available to us.

It is regrettable that Mr. Cyril Dunne is otherwise engaged and could not be here today. He is a key component in regard to this issue. I would suggest that when Mr. Dunne does come before the committee a number of the witnesses here today should also be in attendance in the context of the evidence we will hear. Following on from what I have heard today and at a previous meeting which I chaired, I believe that a number of people here today and a number of those in attendance at the previous meeting are running for cover based on the evidence that we have been given. There are a number of other people who are doing the State some service in terms of the evidence they are giving. That is without prejudice to our findings. That is my summation of the evidence that has been given to this committee.

To date. The following question is to each of the witnesses with the exception of Mr. Howard, purely because he is not a member of management. I do not propose to get into the intricacies of who is being referred to. I would like the witnesses to respond in the following order, Mr. Nugent, Mr. Barrett, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Culhane and Mr. Ruane. Do the witnesses have full confidence in every member of the senior management team in An Garda Síochána?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Yes.

Mr. John Barrett

I have some reservations.

Mr. Barrett does not have full confidence in senior management?

Mr. John Barrett

I am very concerned about what I learned this morning, truthfully. It is quite shocking. The Deputy is probably asking me the question at a bad time.

I will take it that Mr. Barrett does not have full confidence in senior management. Would Mr. Kelly like to respond?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I would concur with Mr. Barrett.

Mr. Kelly does not have full confidence either?

Mr. Niall Kelly

There are some questions around it.

In terms of senior management, I am speaking about the commissioners at senior level, and the Garda Commissioner. Does Mr. Culhane have full confidence in senior management?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Yes, Deputy.

Mr. Kelly's opening statement is the most explosive I have ever heard at the Committee of Public Accounts. Since the previous meeting on 4 May, has there been any attempt to influence the content of that opening statement?

Mr. Niall Kelly

No.

Given what Mr. Kelly said today, does he feel that his position in An Garda Síochána over a number of years has been undermined and does he feel that he was misled?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I do.

We might get into the detail of that later. I want now to ask Mr. Barrett a few questions. The Garda Commissioner previously stated at this committee that once these issues were brought to her attention on 27 July she did everything in her power to address them. She established a group. There was also the meeting which Mr. Barrett said lasted for over two hours but the Garda Commissioner said lasted for five minutes. Mr. Barrett stands over his statement that it was a two hour meeting, I presume?

Mr. John Barrett

Absolutely.

In regard to the meeting that took place on 2 July, who attended?

Mr. John Barrett

Mr. Cyril Dunne, Ms Anne-Marie McMahon, chief superintendent of the Garda College, Mr. Seamus Nolan, superintendent of the Garda College, Mr. Michael Culhane and myself, with Mr. Dunne in the Chair.

What was the purpose of the meeting?

Mr. John Barrett

It was essentially the first meeting of the steering group established to examine the issues which I had begun to explore in the second two weeks of June.

This is a critical moment in this committee's hearings. The Commissioner told us that upon hearing of the issues in Templemore she set up a committee and acted promptly. Is Mr. Barrett saying that the first meeting of the committee which was established was not actually after the meeting of 27 July, but that it had already been set up preceding the meeting and met for the first time on 2 July?

Mr. John Barrett

That is correct. It was at that meeting that I took the action to put together the report. It is dealt with in my cover note to Mr. Cyril Dunne dated 6 July. I will read this for clarity:

I am pleased that you intend to advise the Audit Committee / Chair and that you intend to include the Director of Finance, the Head of Legal Affairs and the Director of Training on the Steering Committee. For me, the devil is in the detail and I recommend that we adopt a prudent and transparent approach to our work and that you as Chair of the Steering Committee take the necessary time to brief all the key stakeholders whose support we will need to rely upon.

That is very clear. Does Mr. Culhane have a differing view to Mr. Barrett?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No.

That is very clear. I thank Mr. Culhane for being prompt. This is very important. We now have a situation where the Commissioner said she acted promptly after being informed on 27 July, but we have Mr. Barrett giving conflicting evidence stating that there was a meeting of the steering group on 2 July. This group met for the first time not after 27 July, but on 2 July. Mr. Culhane agrees with Mr. Barrett's statement. Two members sitting across from me, the head of HR and people development and the head of finance, are saying that there was a steering group set up, which met on 2 July, and which was the steering group to deal with the issues in the Garda Training College in Templemore. I ask Mr. Barrett and Mr. Culhane if there is anything inaccurate in what I have just said. I will take that silence as a "no".

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Just for assistance, I just want to confirm that Mr. Barrett met with me on 30 June and on that date he informed me that he had informed the chief administrative officer about the relevant matters and that the chief administrative officer had informed the Commissioner. Mr. Barrett told me that on 30 June and it is documented.

That is very helpful. We have now gotten through the evidence of the two witnesses, and effectively they are saying that there was a meeting on 2 July. Let us be honest about it, there are certainly issues in respect of how the evidence given here previously relates to the witnesses' evidence. To be fair to the two witnesses, they agree that there was a 2 July meeting of a steering group set up to deal with the issues in Templemore. Despite this, the Garda Commissioner said she acted promptly when she was told, and set up the steering committee that met after 27 July. For the record, there is a direct contradiction in evidence. Furthermore, Mr. Ruane is now telling us that on 30 June he was given information by Mr. Barrett. Will Mr. Ruane repeat what he said?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

On 30 June I met with Mr. Barrett at 4.35 p.m. and he informed me that he had informed the chief administrative officer and that the chief administrative officer had informed the Commissioner.

This information was about the issues in Templemore.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Yes.

Effectively Mr. Ruane is saying that Mr. Barrett-----

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

It was certainly about the issues that Mr. Barrett was raising.

Mr. Barrett had told Mr. Cyril Dunne, I take it, who had told the Commissioner. This was on 30 June.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

It was 30 June 2015.

At what time?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

It was 4.35 p.m.

That is very detailed. Does Mr. Barrett believe that the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána was aware of the issues in Templemore on 2 July or preceding that date?

Mr. John Barrett

That is what Cyril Dunne told me and I have no reason not to believe him.

You believe the Commissioner knew about the issues in Templemore.

Mr. John Barrett

I do not know to what degree, but I was advised that she was aware.

As Mr. Barrett is aware she gave evidence previously-----

Mr. John Barrett

I understand that.

Mr. Barrett was sitting here when she gave evidence that she was first told in the letter from Mr. Ruane and then at the disputed meeting of 27 July. Is that not correct?

Mr. John Barrett

That is correct and I believe that matter can be clarified by Cyril Dunne in his direct evidence to the committee.

Absolutely. That is why he is needed here with the other witnesses. For the record, we have a complete contradiction in evidence between that given on 4 May and that given today. Evidence has been given that there was a 2 July meeting at which this steering group was set up. We also have a letter from 30 June which says that the Commissioner had been informed. Obviously, we will have to tease these things out but that is a direct contradiction in evidence. Mr. Ruane has read out a letter dated 30 June. If that does not raise serious concerns for each and every one of us, and indeed the Oireachtas, nothing else will. I know we have a job to do. I accept what Mr. Ruane is saying in respect of privilege and I know his role. I will only ask him about facts and his opinion, rather than legal advice. Is that okay?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

There is another issue I might be able to assist with. I can also confirm on 6 July 2015 Mr. Barrett informed me that he had attended a meeting in the Garda Training College on Thursday 2 July at 10.30 a.m.

What was that meeting is respect of?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

I met with Mr. Barrett on 6 July and he confirmed that there had been a meeting in the college on 2 July. I am just confirming the meeting of 2 July.

There is a confirmation. There is the letter of 30 June and there is confirmation of the meeting of 2 July. I thank Mr. Ruane. When he became aware of these issues after Mr. Barrett informed him, what did Mr. Ruane feel he had to do? In fairness to Deputy MacSharry, he has asked this question. Obviously the law is above any reporting structure.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

There is certain documentation before the committee which references the fact that I felt a section 41 report was necessary. In so far as there is documentation before the committee in terms of section 41 obligations, I can certainly confirm that.

In other words, Mr. Ruane felt obliged to inform the Commissioner - though I am not asking what advice he gave - of her responsibilities, particularly under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, I presume.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Yes, in fact I note that in the documentation supplied there is a minute from the then private secretary to the Commissioner which was sent back to the deputy commissioner on foot of my advice. It refers to the advice with reference to a section 41 report. I can confirm that.

Mr. Ruane thought the issues were so serious and worrying that he felt it absolutely necessary to advise the Commissioner of her responsibilities under the Act and that it was necessary for her to act.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

If I can distinguish what advice I gave as opposed to what view I took-----

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

-----when Mr. Barrett approached me there was certainly documentation. Mr. Barrett had a copy of the McGee report. Subsequent to that, Mr. Barrett had informed me that internal audit had never carried out any process on foot of that. There were a number of discussions where Mr. Barrett effectively confided the extent of what he had discovered in me. In terms of distinguishing what advice I gave as opposed to how I felt at the time, I certainly felt it was a significant and serious issue. If I can put it that way.

I thank Mr. Ruane for that. I know he is trying to distinguish between advice and what he felt. I will read out section 41(1) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005: "The Garda Commissioner shall keep the Minister and the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform fully informed", and the Act then lists off everything including issues of accountability and issues in respect of significant developments relating to public confidence in An Garda Síochána. Section 41(1)(d) mentions "any other matters that, in the Commissioner’s opinion, should be brought to the Minister’s attention". It was under that section that Mr. Ruane felt necessary, given his concerns and worries, to write to the Commissioner.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Yes. Again, it is confirmed in a note in the documents.

I would add that I had been part of the process that was conducted by Mr. Justice Fennelly at the time. I took what I could from that in terms of how both I and the organisation might learn from his examination.

I respect that. Fennelly's interim report happened in the middle of this process. Mr. Justice Fennelly particularly addressed the way in which evidence should be documented and preserved.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

There is certainly a very helpful examination of the context and a very helpful examination of section 41.

This was all live and happening at the same time. I have one other question for Mr. Ruane before I move on. Distinct from his legal advice, does he feel that the issues that were being revealed and confided to him, as he stated, by Mr. Barrett were of such serious consequence to An Garda Síochána that, if not acted upon immediately, they would be to the detriment of the Garda College and the force?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Again, I am going to maintain a distinction, without referring to any advice I have given-----

I want Mr. Ruane's opinion.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Deputy Kelly is asking me how I felt at the time.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

The answer is yes.

That is very clear. I thank Mr. Ruane.

The Deputy will get a second chance.

I will go three or four times.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

I apologise. I am trying to be as helpful as I can.

I understand. Mr. Ruane has been very helpful. I am stuck for time but will come in again with many other questions. Very briefly, will Mr. Barrett talk us through his meeting with Mr. Dunne? Was it in September 2015?

Mr. John Barrett

That is a significant period from 2 July to the period in September. By September, I had serious reservations as to whether genuine progress was being made on these matters. I reflected on it in the context of the Fennelly report.

The committee members have my documents before them. The section that deals in particular with this has the heading "A Critical Inflection Point". It pertains to the meeting in the college on the 27th and the scale of the issues arising. Ultimately, I begin to deal with what Fennelly deals with by way of effective communication. We heard Mr. Howard a little earlier describe the meeting in respect of any other business and what was, in effect, non-effective communication.

I took some considerable time over writing this note. A period has elapsed since 2 July when I originally prepared a report to go to Mr. Howard through Mr. Dunne. We are reaching now into the third week of September and I have concerns that the thing is not being treated in the multi-million off-balance-sheet, as Mr. Michael Culhane described it, activity that is continuing. It is an active, ongoing enterprise within an organisation for which I have line responsibility. In setting it out very clearly, I too go through the specific issues that Fennelly raises in respect of what a section 41 is intended to do and how this applies absolutely to the matters of gravity that I dealt with in my report of 6 July. I was very deliberately putting it on the record.

Does Mr. Barrett feel that Mr. Dunne reacted?

Mr. John Barrett

I think that question could be better put to Mr. Dunne.

Of course, but I want Mr. Barrett's opinion.

Mr. John Barrett

My opinion is that we were at that point in a situation where the history of which I had become aware was repeating itself. As in the 2008 report, nothing was done and it continued. I felt there was a danger, quite frankly, that my report of July 2015 was going to go the way of its predecessors.

I have a very quick question for Mr. Howard as I do not want him to be left out. On what date did he meet Mr. Barrett in respect of these issues?

Mr. Michael Howard

I think it was 2 June 2016.

Mr. John Barrett

Yes.

Did Mr. Howard commit to meeting Mr. Barrett again and talking to him about these issues afterwards?

Mr. Michael Howard

I probably did indicate to him that I intended to go back, although in the event I did not.

Why did Mr. Howard not do that?

Mr. Michael Howard

I should say, by the way, in order that there is no misunderstanding, that Mr. Barrett gave a very full and comprehensive brief which I took away and reflected upon.

I accept that.

Mr. Michael Howard

My normal point of contact is with Mr. Niall Kelly as the head of internal audit. While I do not want to add fuel to this fire, I was becoming aware that there were differences of opinion and conflicts within the organisation.

Of course. We know that now.

Mr. Michael Howard

I was extremely mindful that my position was as the independent reviewer of Mr. Kelly's work. I was worried that I might create the mistaken impression that I was too close to management. If I may put it this way, while I want to emphasise that I mean no implied criticism of anyone, everyone on the page from this line down, except for Mr. Kelly, is part of the domain that is audited. That was my only reason.

That is understood. That is why Mr. Howard did not come back to Mr. Barrett despite committing to do so.

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes, and with hindsight I probably should have explained that to him.

Okay. I have a very simple last question. Mr. Howard met Mr. Barrett. Will he remind us of the date?

Mr. Michael Howard

It was 2 June.

Okay. It was 2 June, 2016. Did Mr. Howard subsequently meet the Commissioner to discuss these issues?

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes.

On what date?

Mr. Michael Howard

I believe it was 16 June.

Mr. Michael Howard

It was because I was so concerned.

What happened at the meeting?

Mr. Michael Howard

The meeting with the Commissioner, in brief terms, probably took the form of a lecture by me on the contents of the blue book, the manual on public financial procedures. I took the information I had got from Mr. Barrett and other information from Mr. Niall Kelly and I put it through what I would call the blue book filter.

How did she react?

Mr. Michael Howard

Again----

Will Mr. Howard explain the blue book to those who do not know what he is on about?

Mr. Michael Howard

For those who are not familiar with it, it is the manual on public financial procedures which was published by the Minister for Finance previously and is currently published by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. It is basically the rules of the road as to how to handle public money.

To return to my question, how did the Commissioner react to the whole discussion? Did Mr. Howard refer to what Mr. Barrett had told him in the previous meeting? Mr. Howard found out about the issues in Templemore through Mr. Kelly, who informed him first, and then subsequently he met Mr. Barrett. Did Mr. Howard not challenge the Commissioner, who is after all the Accounting Officer, as to why in the name of God he was not told about these issues before? Did he not feel he was being misled in not having been told about them? Did Mr. Howard make those points to the Commissioner or did he not? How could the chairman of the audit committee of An Garda Síochána fail to make those points?

Mr. Michael Howard

I am going to preface my reply by saying that everyone else seems to have taken far better notes at the time than I did.

That is another point.

Mr. Michael Howard

I am sorry. I am not avoiding the question.

As chairman of the audit committee, Mr. Howard was legally committed to taking detailed contemporaneous notes.

Mr. Michael Howard

Hang on. I do not want to give a mistaken impression. When I spoke to the Commissioner first, I presented the conferrings. Yes, I did refer to Mr. Kelly and to Mr. Barrett, obviously. I did voice my reservations, not just at the delay in respect of this. I did discuss with her the manner in which this had been presented and my disappointment that it had passed. I also expressed my serious concerns about the fact it seemed to have been in the organisation since 2008 and nothing had been done about it. I emphasised to the Commissioner the absolute urgency of tackling it now. That was the basic message that I wished to give to the Commissioner. I believe, and the committee may question the Commissioner on this, that I brought with me and left some passages from the public financial procedures about the responsibilities of the Accounting Officer.

Fair enough. I ask Mr. Howard to answer my last question because the Chair is going to throw me off now, as it were. Mr. Howard was not informed of these issues until Mr. Kelly did so on what date?

Mr. Michael Howard

It was the end of May.

The end of May, and then Mr. Barrett met Mr. Howard subsequently. How long had Mr. Howard been chair of the audit committee at that stage?

Mr. Michael Howard

I took over in the spring of 2014.

He had been there for a couple of years. Did he not feel that his position was undermined by the fact he had not been informed of the scale of these issues by people who are sitting here, some for longer than others? There were others in senior management of An Garda Síochána who knew about these issues but Mr. Howard was never informed. Does he feel he should have been informed? To be fair, as he is only acting in a voluntary capacity, he may not feel personally undermined. Does he feel, however, that his position was undermined?

Mr. Michael Howard

If I can address this first, emphatically, the audit committee should have been told this. When I read what is in the 2008 McGee report, I cannot account for how it was not disclosed to the audit committee back then. If we look at the principal documents here, Niall Kelly's internal audit report, John Barrett's summary and the McGee report, they are all basically hitting the same spot. The issues are self-evident.

It is just my question about feeling undermined that is left.

Mr. Michael Howard

Did I feel undermined? I do not want to give an off the shoulder. I did feel very let down. I felt very surprised. It was outside of my experience in the Civil Service. I could not account for it. I did not want to take it in a personal way.

No, I mean Mr. Howard's office. Did Mr. Howard feel that the office was undermined?

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes, definitely. There is no question about it. If one looks at the way in which the audit committee institutionally was treated from 2008, and if one takes that as a start time when I felt that the audit committee then should have been informed. That it was----

So the position was undermined.

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes.

I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.

I will refer to the documents that Mr. Barrett received yesterday. I understand he has more documents that we have seen. Is that correct?

Mr. John Barrett

Deputy, in relation to the letter written by the director of finance, I have sought to have a copy of that from the Commissioner on six occasions.

Mr. John Barrett

I got a copy under freedom of information, which is an extremely strange way for such things to be dealt with but it was the only option, with about 85% of it redacted.

Mr. John Barrett

I became aware of this yesterday and, needless to say, I am not happy.

Right. Is Mr. Barrett seeing more information than we have?

Mr. John Barrett

Quite frankly, I have a stick on which, I understand, the committee received documents. I have not seen what Mr. Culhane has sent down to the committee last night or this morning so I am clearly not with the full set of documents.

Maybe if we could have a copy of what Mr. Barrett has. At this point we can use the afternoon to take a look and make a comparison. That might be a useful way to proceed.

Mr. John Barrett

Anything I can do to be of assistance.

Like everyone else has asked, where does one start? I look at all of these checks and balances such as the independent audit committees and internal audit. A structure was put in place to carry out checks and balances and, clearly, that structure did not work. Throughout Mr. Barrett's report that he wrote on 12 October 2016 one repeatedly sees the phrase "lessons to be learned". Heavily, it falls back on the culture and why it happened despite all of the checks and balances. Does Mr. Barrett believe that this could happen again?

Mr. John Barrett

Well, first of all, I must stress I am a relative newcomer to the public sector and so the experience I will draw upon, by way of comparison, is external to the public sector. For 30 years, working largely in American multinationals, this could never happen. The internal audit organisation would normally be one which would be given absolute co-operation and there would be no suggestion that reports of the order done in 2006, 2008 and 2010 would be denied to internal audit. That could not happen, in my experience, but it happened here. I began my particular efforts to address these issues in the knowledge that Niall Kelly was not aware of that history. If anything, it sharpened my antennae to the prospect that perhaps there is not a great anxiety to deal with these matters, hence my letter of 20 September.

I want to clear up a number of these things first. I was struck by the idea that Mr. Barrett kept contemporaneous notes, that he referenced some of his meetings with Mr. Ruane, and that the internal auditor sent himself registered material. It is Mr. Barrett and Mr. Kelly who were doing this, is it not?

Mr. John Barrett: Well, first of all I must stress, I am a relative newcomer to the public sector and so the experience I will draw upon, by way of comparison, is external to the public sector. For 30 years, largely working in American multinationals, this could never happen. The internal audit organisation would normally be one which would be given absolute co-operation and there would be no suggestion that reports of the order done in 2006

Mr. John Barrett

I did that.

That strikes me as a self-protection mechanism. Am I correct?

Mr. John Barrett

Let us look at what we have recently read in our newspapers concerning whether records were destroyed or whether telecommunications equipment survived. I was very conscious of the fact that what I was dealing with here was well known and understood for a number of years. The curiosity in my mind was, why was this not dealt with expeditiously-----

Mr. John Barrett

Relating to material sums of money in the public Vote in the period 2004 to 2014, it is €12.4 million of taxpayers' money commingled with any cash receipts from any and all of the other activities, and they are very difficult to quantify but Mr. Kelly is going to address himself to that.

Mr. John Barrett

So, significant money.

Yes. I refer Mr. Barrett to his report of October 2016. I have written the number 3 on the page as the pages were not numbered. The report states: "I was twice warned that the reference to the books of account for the restaurant, having ‘gone missing’ was a very dangerous reference and that I should be ‘very careful’." Mr. Barrett wrote inverted commas around the words "very careful". Did those books of account re-emerge? Can Mr. Barrett talk to us about the matter?

Mr. John Barrett

In the meeting that took place on 27 July, my understanding of going to the meeting, was we were talking about, if one likes, the aftermath of the briefing that had been done, or was intended to be done, by Cyril with the audit committee on 15 July. This was 12 days later. I discovered at the meeting there was no such briefing and Mr. Howard has confirmed that. I discovered that the substance of the meeting was, essentially, on foot of the letter written by Mr. Ruane to the Commissioner attaching the 2008 report concerning the Garda college, the so-called McGee report, and we were discussing the advices as given by Mr. Ruane to the Commissioner, which were very clear and very explicit, as I remember them. That was the purpose of the discussion getting together on the 27th. At that meeting I put my hand up and I said that the basis on which Ken has advised is the ongoing work that I am doing. It was at that point that Cyril told me that he had not given the report to Mr. Howard. The meeting then took the character of what do we do about these advices that Mr. Ruane has written.

I will move on to discussing a couple of other things because we will probably come back to some of this matter later on today.

I want to ask Mr. Kelly some questions. The restaurant is central to all of this. Was it part of the internal audit?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes

It was part of the internal audit. Depreciation was mentioned on page 5 of Mr. Barrett's report which reads:

I noted with some concern the inclusion of a charge for depreciation but I was given to understand that all capital equipment and fixtures and fittings which would normally attract such a charge were essentially provided by the OPW or the Garda College.

That is just one of a number of things about the restaurant. Money was transferred in when fewer people visited the restaurant due to an embargo. The money was transferred back in, if I remember correctly, from a credit union account. I think there were a number of significant transfers there. Were they things that were picked up in internal audit?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes. They are in the report

Would that have been separate to the interim report?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Some of that is within the interim report, yes, about the restaurant. I go into, in one section, cross-subsidisation and equipment being bought by the State but actually going into the shop or the kitchens in the restaurant, which are being operated as a kind of a private enterprise rather than a State-controlled canteen or shop.

That whole area in its own right and in terms of the relationship of the employees, which is well documented here, whether or not they are public servants, merits scrutiny.

Recommendation No. 5 refers to the oversight of Templemore. A lot of this was put in the hands of people who did not have training or were inexperienced. The diagnosis or solution is that a number of courses will be designed by the Institute of Public Administration. I address the following question to both Mr. Kelly and Mr. Barrett. Is that diagnosis correct? I mean inexperienced people opening up bank accounts and moving money around.

It seems to me to be quite structured rather than inexperienced. What is Mr. Kelly's view on that?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I think one of the reasons they were opening all the bank accounts was instead of having a proper accounting system. The way they were managing it was that every time they dreamt up something new, they opened another bank account and that would compartmentalise all the expenditure and receipts in relation to that issue rather than putting in a proper accounting system.

Did Mr. Kelly not notice that in internal audit?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes, I did.

What action did he take?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I wrote my interim report.

Yes, but in producing it as an interim report was a follow-up required from Mr. Kelly?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

What follow-up was there?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes. In my opening statement I said that we have two jobs going on at the moment - two audits currently - one of which touches on what Deputy Murphy is talking about, the cash management within the restaurant, shop and vending machines, and the bar in the college. That is a current piece of work that we are doing at the moment.

That must have been evident. Mr. Kelly has been there since 2007. That must have been evident in the internal audits. Did Mr. Kelly conduct an internal audit every year into every component or would it have been more occasional?

Mr. Niall Kelly

No. I would not be able to do that. We have an audit plan based on a risk assessment of the whole organisation and we have limited resources so there is no way we can look at everything every year. First of all, the McGee report was not forwarded to me. If that had been forwarded to me, then I would have worked on it earlier.

Could I just stop Mr. Kelly there for a moment? The restaurant is where all of the activity was happening. Would that not have grabbed Mr. Kelly's attention?

Mr. Niall Kelly

My knowledge up to 2015, when some of this started to come out, was that the restaurant was a private operation, that it was a private firm, and nothing to do with the State. That was my information up to that point. That was the assumption I was making. I had not seen the bank accounts. I was unaware of the McGee report.

I am sorry but could I just stop Mr. Kelly there? The money was voted as part of the justice Vote. It would then have transferred to the college. The money was to be used for recruits. Not all of the money was being used. It was being siphoned off and it was going off into the Sportsfield account. If one was doing a basic balance sheet and looking at what was spent and what was taken in, surely that would have shown there was an amount of money going somewhere else?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Even in the period one has to remember that the college was effectively dormant from 2011 to 2014. I perceived it as low risk. I was not aware of the background to these situations and I perceived it as low risk. Maybe I was wrong but that was the perception. Therefore I did not instigate audits in that area.

I will go back and make a point to Mr. Barrett about the diagnosis of the problem being inexperienced people. That is how it all happened. The solution was to improve skill sets.

Mr. John Barrett

I think that is part of the solution but ignorance of the law is no defence and I do not have doubt in my mind that the rules in relation to what is good management and good business were known clearly. Let us be clear about it: we are talking about opening 50 accounts in a situation where it is understood that ministerial approval is required for the opening of an account.

So it is not a case of an inexperienced person.

Mr. John Barrett

Perhaps Mr. Howard can deal with this. In our discussion of 2 June, one of the things that stuck with me was, as the former Secretary General of the Department of Defence, Mr. Howard pointed out, the entire Defence Forces operated on either six or eight accounts.

Mr. Michael Howard

I will not go to the stake for the figure, but the number of bank accounts in one location was staggering. That is the only way to put it. It was different, out of all proportion in terms of orders of magnitude.

There is nobody in this room that will not concur with that but what is staggering is that we have laws in relation to money laundering and it is very difficult to open a bank account, even a personal bank account. It is difficult to comprehend that there were so many bank accounts. I cannot understand how that was missed in the normal course of events and why it needed to take three reports to find some of that. I find that very difficult to accept given all the checks and balances we have. I have heard this since-----

Deputy Murphy must finish now. She will get another opportunity.

I just want to ask this question. Mr. Barrett quoted something which I heard from someone I know personally, who is a former senior person in the Garda from a long time ago. He used the same language so it jumped out at me. He spoke about what goes on when nobody is looking. Essentially, there is a culture and Mr. Barrett goes into it in some detail. I share his concerns. Nobody was changed. Despite the change in, for example, the senior ranks, the same behaviour or set of circumstances continued. Various Commissioners had sight of the three reports, two of which were seen by previous Commissioners. Does Mr. Barrett have any advice on the cultural issue? He focused on it very heavily. There are checks and balances but they do not seem to have mattered. What is Mr. Barrett's advice?

Mr. John Barrett

I think that is a huge question that the organisation needs to address, but under the clear guidance of what a 21st century police service needs to look like going forward. There is no doubt about it; it is not a series of happenstance or accidents that the reports of 2006, 2008 or 2010 essentially got nowhere. I refuse to believe that. I do not think that is a tenable argument.

Deputy McDonald is the next speaker. We indicated that we would break for ten minutes around noon.

Do the witnesses wish to take a break before I commence my questions?

Yes. I mean literally ten minutes. Deputy McDonald will ask questions in ten minutes.

What is the order?

The order of speakers that are left is as follows: Deputy McDonald, Deputy Madigan, Deputy Cassells, Deputy Aylward and Deputy Burke. The people who have already spoken have indicated they want to come back a second time in the following sequence: Deputy Cullinane, Deputy Kelly, Deputy Connolly and Deputy Catherine Murphy.

Sitting suspended at 12.07 p.m. and resumed at 12.25 p.m.

The committee is now back in public session. The next speaker is Deputy McDonald. Members have ten minutes each to pose questions.

I welcome all the witnesses to today's meeting. How long has Mr. Howard held his position on the audit committee, of which he is the chairman?

Mr. Michael Howard

I am the former chair of the committee. I finished in that role on 30 April 2017. I held the position of chair for the three years prior to 30 April

Can the witness give me the relevant dates? When did he commence his duties?

Mr. Michael Howard

I commenced that role in mid-April 2014.

The witness commenced in April 2014. When did he stand down?

Mr. Michael Howard

I stood down on 30 April of this year.

Mr. Michael Howard

That is correct.

Can the witness remind the committee of the date of his meeting with Mr. Barrett?

Mr. Michael Howard

It was 2 June 2016.

Was he very alarmed by what Mr. Barrett told him?

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes.

Mr. Barrett, on a previous occasion on which he appeared before this committee, said that he met the witness and then did not hear another word from him. The witness has given evidence today that that was because the witness considered as an entity-----

Mr. Michael Howard

As I said earlier, I wish I had explained that to Mr. Barrett. I did not know it was going to become an issue. I probably should have explained it to him. My only issue in that regard was that, as this story unfolded, I became very aware that, as auditor, one has to stand back and maintain a distance from the domain one is auditing. I was becoming aware of various frictions and difficulties that might arise in relation to Mr. Kelly's interim audit report. I was conscious of the need to maintain a distance because of my role as independent reviewer and quality assurer of the work carried out by Mr. Kelly.

That is fair enough. How would Mr. Howard describe his personal relationship with the Commissioner?

Mr. Michael Howard

I have known the Commissioner since she was an assistant commissioner. For nine years, I was Secretary General of the Department of Defence, which carries out much work in tandem with the Garda. It has responsibility for peace-time emergency planning, security details and operates Garda aircraft. I knew the Commissioner because of my time in that role.

The witness knows the Commissioner well. Would he describe their relationship as close?

Mr. Michael Howard

I have a friendly relationship with her.

Did the witness raise this issue in the course of his meeting with Mr. Barrett?

Mr. Michael Howard

I may have, yes.

I think he did because the committee has a memo to file from Friday 22 July 2016. I am referring to the work of Mr. Barrett. The memo to file highlights Mr. Howard's deep respect for the Commissioner and his close personal relationship with her. It also reflects his instinct, as a lifelong civil servant, to avoid matters which could give rise to embarrassment and controversy and being fearful of the impact of the matters outlined to him by Mr. Barrett. Is that a fair account of the situation?

Mr. Michael Howard

It is for others to judge my personality.

This is not about the witness's personality, it is about his discharge of a public function.

Mr. Michael Howard

If the Deputy wants me to answer in the context of discharge of a public function, I can say that I am impartial and without sentiment in the performance of any public function I hold.

I am trying to ascertain if Mr. Howard shares the recollection. Mr. Barrett took the trouble to commit these matters to paper. I want to check that he is not wildly------

Mr. Michael Howard

I will not dispute Mr. Barrett's recollection. However, I have an obligation to add something.

If the witness could do so briefly.

Mr. Michael Howard

One of the things that I did after Mr. Barrett spoke to me was to personally contact the deputy head of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General to inform him of the serious issue that was emerging.

We will come to that in a moment. I thank the witness for that new information. Did the witness have a meeting with the Commissioner in the aftermath of his meeting with Mr. Barrett?

Mr. Michael Howard

I did.

Did he raise with the Commissioner the issues that Mr. Barrett had raised with him?

Mr. Michael Howard

In short, yes. I raised the issues in terms of being my concerns, grounded in what Mr. Barrett had explained to me and the emerging work of Mr. Kelly.

The witness met with Mr. Barrett and was deeply concerned.

Mr. Michael Howard

That is correct.

Mr. Howard then met with the Commissioner and Mr. Barrett did not hear from you again.

Mr. Michael Howard

That is correct.

This was because Mr. Howard felt a need to keep some distance from somebody. Did this mean Mr. Barrett?

Mr. Michael Howard

It meant from everybody concerned. I do not want to give a mistaken impression. Mr. Kelly is my contact and my reason to go back to Mr. Barrett would be for further clarification on something. In the event, that did not happen.

Did Mr. Howard not tell him he would come back to him?

Mr. Michael Howard

I may have done so and I may have expected to.

Mr. Howard is a lifelong civil servant. He strikes me as a thoughtful and competent person. He was deeply shocked, had a conversation with Mr. Barrett and gave him a standard commitment to get back to him. He then met with the Commissioner and raised the issues with her and Mr. Barrett did not hear from him again.

Mr. Michael Howard

That is correct.

That is very interesting. I would have expected Mr. Howard to get back to Mr. Barrett. Did Mr. Barrett expect Mr. Howard to get back in touch with him?

Mr. John Barrett

Mr. Howard asked that I make myself available for a meeting initially, and then for a series of meetings he might require. I assured him I would give him my full co-operation.

Thank you for the clarification. There was more than a general commitment to get back. Mr. Howard then met the Commissioner and Mr. Barrett did not hear from him again.

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes.

The reason for this is that Mr. Howard thought, after the fact, that he needed to keep some distance.

Mr. Michael Howard

Yes. There is a danger of reading the history of this backwards, starting from where we are.

I am not going back to the past. I am reading from a memo from July 2016.

Mr. Michael Howard

As long as Mr. Kelly was keeping me as informed as I needed to be, I felt the work had moved on.

I see from the same memo that it was Mr. Kelly who informed Mr. Barrett that Mr. Howard had met with the Commissioner.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I have no recollection but if that is Mr. Barrett's recollection-----

How would Mr. Kelly have known that Mr. Howard had met with the Commissioner? Do not dance on the head of a pin. Just tell me how he knew it, with a straight answer.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I was in conversation with Mr. Howard.

Mr. Howard would have told Mr. Kelly that he met with the Commissioner. I suspected that much. Mr. Howard met with Mr. Barrett, was deeply shocked and asked him to make himself available for any subsequent meetings. He met the Commissioner and, I presume, told her how shocked he was. He informed Mr. Kelly that he had met with the Commissioner but he does not go back to Mr. Barrett. It is very convoluted.

Mr. Michael Howard

That is how it transpired. Having discharged the responsibility of warning the Commissioner-----

Warning the Commissioner of what? That Mr. Barrett had sussed things out?

Mr. Michael Howard

Dear Lord, I can assure the Deputy that was not the case.

What was Mr. Howard warning her of?

Mr. Michael Howard

I was warning her that, as the Accounting Officer, she was exposed. My perception of the issue from September 2015 until the end of May 2016 or the beginning of June 2016 was that it was a static issue. My grave concern was that upon becoming aware, and I will invite Mr. Kelly to correct me if I have got this wrong-----

No, you will not. I am leading the line of questioning.

Mr. Michael Howard

Sorry, I did not mean any disrespect. Mr. Kelly had not seen the McGee report. I realised from conversations with Mr. Kelly and Mr. Barrett that there was a running system in the Garda College that was handing large amounts of cash-----

We heard of that earlier. Mr. Kelly took a very different view of this meeting with the Commissioner from that portrayed by Mr. Howard. Mr. Barrett's memo of 22 July 2016 states, "I have been informed by Mr. Niall Kelly, however, that Mr. Howard had a meeting with the Commissioner in the immediate aftermath of his meeting with me." What was the immediate aftermath?

Mr. Michael Howard

I believe I met the Commissioner on 16 June.

It goes on, "Mr. Kelly, who has also had sight of the historic files on the Garda College issues, alerted me to this as historically there is evidence to suggest previous efforts were made to prevent these matters moving towards the purview of the C&AG by at least one former Garda Commissioner." Can Mr. Kelly help us out here? Does he wish to comment? Is this an accurate reflection of the conversation he had with Mr. Barrett? Mr. Kelly had notified him that Mr. Howard had met with the Commissioner.

Mr. Niall Kelly

What date is this? Was it July 2016?

Mr. Niall Kelly

At that stage I was aware of the McGee report and was actively auditing in the college. I knew that reports had not gone to the Comptroller and Auditor General or to where they should have gone. It is an accurate reflection.

Mr. Kelly was concerned and let Mr. Barrett know of the meeting with the Commissioner. Is that because he had a genuine concern that it might be part of another ruse to stymie information? The memo states that previous efforts were made to prevent these matters moving towards the purview of the Comptroller and Auditor General by at least one former Garda Commissioner. Was he concerned this would also be the case here?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Given the history of these events, I had to consider all possibilities.

Mr. Kelly did not immediately presume the bona fides of the Commissioner and that the matters would be dealt with properly.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Commissioners have busy agendas and may or may not see the seriousness of issues. However, I could see that this was very serious.

Did Mr. Kelly imagine that the serving Commissioner might also prevent these matters moving towards the purview of the Comptroller and Auditor General?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I do not have that concern.

I am asking if Mr. Kelly had that concern when he spoke to Mr. Barrett.

Mr. Niall Kelly

As an auditor, I have to have an open mind.

Who is the one former Garda Commissioner who Mr. Kelly believed prevented these matters moving towards the purview of the Comptroller and Auditor General?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I am not sure if I was referring to one in particular or to a number of them. These are not my words.

Mr. John Barrett

These are my words. Mr. Kelly drew to my attention a letter dated 4 March 2011, in the aftermath of the 2010 or the 2008 report. It is addressed to the chief information officer and signed by the then Commissioner. There was an understanding at the apex of the organisation at that time that there were issues in the Garda College. This is what Mr. Kelly referenced to me. He subsequently gave me the document and I have it here.

That is the evidence Mr. Kelly cited of a former Garda Commissioner preventing these matters moving towards the purview of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Do we have that document?

Mr. John Barrett

I have it here.

What date is on the letter?

Mr. John Barrett

It is from John Leamy to the then Commissioner, dated 3 March 2011.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I think it is in the pack given at the last meeting.

Mr. John Barrett

That is evidence of the fact that there was an awareness of these issues on that date at the apex of the organisation.

For clarity, what was the date?

Mr. John Barrett

It was 3 March 2011.

Might we just check that we have that? We will revert on the matter, but I thank Mr. Barrett.

Mr. Culhane has said repeatedly that, in 2008, he advised that the Comptroller and Auditor General and Secretary General of the Department be apprised of the events in the Garda College. Is that correct?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

Under what provision was Mr. Culhane suggesting that that happen? Was it in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act?

Mr. Michael Culhane

It would have been in accordance with the Act in terms of the property issue, and also-----

I did not ask about the material. I meant mechanically. Was it a section 41 disclosure?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No. The issues that we had discovered in the college were of such a magnitude that, as part of the normal course of events, those people should have been informed.

Was Mr. Culhane aware of the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act in 2008?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I certainly was familiar with the Act, but I must confess that I was not aware of section 41.

Mr. Culhane was not giving this advice on informing particular actors, particularly the Secretary General, under section 41.

Mr. Michael Culhane

No.

It was more of a general-----

Mr. Michael Culhane

It was a general one. I had not encountered section 41 before.

What I find curious about Mr. Culhane's October 2015 letter is its tone. The letter was to the Commissioner, Ms O'Sullivan, the deputy commissioner for operations and the deputy commissioner for SCM. What is "SCM"?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Strategy and change management.

Who were these people? Who were in these jobs?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Does the Deputy mean their names?

Mr. Michael Culhane

What date was the letter?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I think that it might have been Mr. John Twomey and Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin.

And the chief administration officer, who was-----

Mr. Michael Culhane

Mr. Cyril Dunne.

At the time. Mr. Culhane did not just write to the Commissioner. This letter went broader.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I was writing to the executive.

It has been referred to as a letter to the Commissioner.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

It did not just go to the Commissioner. Reading this, one would never have imagined that, as far back as 2008, which was seven years prior, Mr. Culhane had recognised the need for the Department and others, not least the Comptroller and Auditor General, to be informed of the matters that had been uncovered at Templemore. In fact, this letter reads as being hostile to Mr. Ruane or any form of disclosure. Of course, that seems to be what bothered Mr. Culhane about Mr. Barrett. I cannot reconcile how, in 2008, Mr. Culhane recommended disclosure but, in 2015, his position had changed. Does Mr. Culhane have an explanation for that?

I thank the Deputy for her question, but we are over time. She will get another opportunity.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I do not believe that the positions are irreconcilable. The issue in respect of the-----

Mr. Culhane, they are. Will Mr. Ruane briefly tell us when the Office of the Attorney General was informed and became involved in any of the matters pertinent to Templemore?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

It was in September 2015 that I sought advices. Since that date, the Chief State Solicitor's office and the Attorney General's office have given considerable assistance in trying to resolve two aspects of the matters contained within the-----

What specifically did Mr. Ruane refer to the Attorney General's office?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Certain issues. I need to be careful and speak in general terms. When documents are submitted seeking advice, they are covered by legal professional privilege. In terms of the audit report, however, it is clear that there are outstanding issues relating to lands at the college that are currently occupied by the Templemore Golf Club and the legal status of staff working within the Garda College restaurant.

The Commissioner would have been aware that advices were being sought from the Attorney General's office.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

I can put it this way: at meetings in August and September, I would have specifically requested the chief administrative officer to keep the Commissioner informed of what was arising from that.

As far as Mr. Ruane was concerned.

My final question is to Mr. McCarthy. Mr. Howard states that he informed Mr. McCarthy's office on the back of his meeting with Mr. Barrett, specifically the deputy head of the Comptroller and Auditor General's office. Is that the-----

Mr. Michael Howard

Mr. Andy Harkness.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

He is the secretary and director of audit and has line responsibility for the audit of An Garda Síochána.

Mr. McCarthy was aware of that.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

We had already been informed on 31 May by internal audit. That was brought to my attention. Then Mr. Harkness mentioned to me that Mr. Howard had also-----

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

-----raised the matter with him.

I thank Mr. McCarthy. That is all for now.

I want to give Mr. Culhane an opportunity. He was asked about the inconsistency of his two approaches by Deputy McDonald. Mr. Culhane said that they were reconcilable but Deputy McDonald said that they were not. I wish to give Mr. Culhane an opportunity to explain his answer from his perspective.

Mr. Michael Culhane

In terms of the issues that were identified in the college - for example, the resolution of the legal issues surrounding the status of the employees and the land issue - and has already been alluded to, none of them could be resolved without the input of the Department of Justice and Equality, the Chief State Solicitor's office and the Attorney General's office. They will always be high-ticket items in terms of being public events. One of the recommendations was that the land would be transferred to the OPW. That would have been picked up in the OPW's accounts and an explanation for where the land had come from would then have had to have been provided to the Comptroller and Auditor General. It was always going to be the case that the resolution of these matters would be in the public domain. As such, I did not seek to hide it or minimise the importance of these events.

That is not how Mr. Culhane's letter reads. I do not know how it could be read in any other way but as being hostile to the notion of a section 41 disclosure to the Minister. That is how it reads.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I accept the Deputy's opinion.

It is in Mr. Culhane's hand. They are Mr. Culhane's words.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

To provide full disclosure to the committee regarding what is being discussed at the moment, at a meeting on 6 August 2015 I indicated that certain issues may have needed to be referred for external advice to the Attorney General's office. It is documented. It was a factual issue as opposed to a legal one. It is my obligation to bring it to the committee's attention. Mr. Culhane was concerned that I was seeking external advice, or that I was even proposing to seek external advice, outside of my own remit on certain matters, but-----

I am sorry, Chairman,-----

This is important.

-----but will Mr. Ruane clarify what he means by that? Mr. Culhane was concerned that he was seeking advice from the-----

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

At a meeting on 6 August. When considering certain issues, I am always aware that I am an internal adviser. That is one part of it in terms of transparency and accountability. However, the Chief State Solicitor's office and the Attorney General's office have a wealth of knowledge and expertise that we always rely on for certain matters. I am bound to disclose that, at that meeting when I referenced that I would possibly seek an external view, certainly-----

On what exactly?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

On the two issues - the lands and possibly the-----

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

Certainly the lands.

We just want this to be in Mr. Ruane's words. He needs to say it.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

I am sorry, Chairman. Certainly the lands and, at a later stage, the legal status of the employees.

Just on a matter of clarification-----

The legal status of the employees.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

In the restaurant.

I just wanted-----

I am sorry, Deputy Kelly, but is Mr. Ruane telling us that Mr. Culhane was hostile to the notion of the former seeking outside advice on these matters?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

I believe from the word that I noted at the time that he said he was "shocked", but I will let Mr. Culhane speak. It is only fair to-----

Was Mr. Culhane hostile to Mr. Ruane seeking such outside advice from the Attorney General's office?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No. I would be quite shocked at that interpretation.

I have to go back to my minute in 2008 where I recommended that legal advice be sought in terms of resolving the issues. I am not surprised that Mr. Ruane had to seek legal advice because the issues around the land-----

Why then was Mr. Culhane shocked?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Me?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

I do not want to put words into Mr. Culhane's mouth but I had the impression that, when I suggested that, he felt that I was in some way calling into question his own professional integrity or the way that matters had been dealt with up to that point. That was my opinion.

I do not want to cut across the Deputy, but for clarity, is that letter that Mr. Ruane sent, looking for the advice, the letter that was sent to the Attorney General and copied to the Department of Justice and Equality, where they now claim it was the first time they became aware of this?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

That is correct. To clarify it was 31 August 2015, but I emailed it to Mr. Eugene Banks on 1 September 2015 for information.

It should be noted at this point that Mr. Barrett, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Ruane have all said here today that they felt their professionalism was called into question by Mr. Culhane - all three.

We will note that but we have to consider all the evidence before we draw any conclusions.

I am saying that should be noted.

We are not drawing a conclusion here today.

I am saying that, as a fact, that is what they have said and that should be noted.

The committee is not drawing a conclusion on that issue.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I have already stated that I have confidence in their professional abilities. I do not know how many times I have to say this but I do have confidence in their professional abilities. They are all appropriately qualified individuals.

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

It is only fair to add that, after that initial meeting, there were no further reservations or any issues raised by Mr. Culhane about seeking external advice. That is only fair to add.

Listening to the evidence here this morning and what has been said to my colleagues, what is most striking, from this last exchange in particular, is the divergence of views, especially in that last exchange between Mr. Ruane and Mr. Culhane. Sometimes the early exchanges were bordering on hostility towards each other, with people needing to make freedom of information, FOI, requests to get information. This is all from people who are supposed to be on the same side, which is the side of the people, in order to give proper evidence and ensure ultimately the correct expenditure of public money in order that people can be satisfied their hard-earned money is spent appropriately and accounted for. If we as committee members are surprised, one can imagine that people looking in are aghast at that last exchange and what has transpired here this morning. This is from the civilian side of the force, not even the officers. Mr. Barrett said he had spent a lifetime ensuring the proper expenditure of money in multinationals and that it would not happen there, but it is unreal that it happens repeatedly in the public sector, with these issues being illuminated.

At the heart of this is the misappropriation of funds in the force that is responsible for justice in this State. As Mr. Culhane said, it was a culture that went back to the 1960s. It is fair to say that the swinging sixties seem to have been kept going to the present day. If Austin Powers had turned up in his time machine in Templemore, he would not have known that he was in a different decade given the testimony we have listened to.

Keeping to the report around which the Chairman has asked us to frame our remarks, recommendation No. 4 says that, "Garda Staff assigned to administrative roles in the College had no training or experience in administration ... no knowledge of Public Financial Procedures (the Blue Book) [as Mr. Howard said, the roadmap] and associated governance codes [for] Public Procurement ... Risk Management", and then it goes on to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Government Accounting Unit. Being fair, does Mr. Kelly believe this is a simple case of the people who were in situ not being skilled and not having the necessary competence rather than a wilful misappropriation of funds or maybe even corruption? Did they in fact believe that the surplus money was their money, as he pointed out at the beginning of his opening remarks, quoting Deputy Commissioner Rice at the time? Is it the result of the arrangements that were in place, which Mr. Kelly touches on, and the effect of these arrangements going back to the 1980s? In terms of capitation grants and at a time when things were going well and surpluses were being accumulated, as Mr. Kelly said, every time a scheme was dreamed up, there was another bank account and things were kept on an individual basis rather than a cumulative one. Does he believe it is fair to paint everyone with the same brush, that there was wilful misappropriation, or was it the case that there was incompetence?

Mr. Niall Kelly

On balance, I believe it was more incompetence than wilful neglect or wilful whatever.

That is an important point.

Mr. Niall Kelly

However, as Mr. Barrett said earlier, ignorance of the law is not an excuse, and a lot of this stuff is set down in law, and very old law at that. The basic legislation in this regard is 1866. It is not as if there is some sort of new governance code that has just come in in recent years. This is going back a long time and people should know about it. However, the fact is that when I went to audit the college, I found staff who were trained as gardaí, effectively with no or very little administrative training, who were running large-scale enterprises with a lot of money flowing through them, and with no real assistance. One could sympathise with them. They were put into these jobs, they did not have much training for them, and they muddled through as best they could, but that was not adequate.

That is a fair point in terms of Mr. Kelly saying they had no real assistance and he would sympathise with them. I asked whether it was wilful misappropriation or incompetence because, going back to Mr. Culhane's letter to Mr. Kelly from February 2017, in point No. 1 on the second page of the letter, he says that on several occasions Mr. Kelly was reported to have stated in relation to college personnel that people would be led away in handcuffs. Who were those people if it was not a case of corruption or wilful misappropriation but of incompetence?

Mr. Niall Kelly

As I said earlier, those comments are not mine. They are Mr. Culhane's about me. They are hearsay. I may have used some of those words, but they are completely taken out of context.

In what context were they used? Mr. Kelly is not denying that he said that.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I am not denying that I may have said some of those words, but-----

The words in particular were "led away in handcuffs".

Mr. Niall Kelly

-----what I am saying is that they are completely taken out of context.

This is very important because Mr. Kelly has just said that he had sympathy for the people in the college-----

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

-----and the large sums of money they were being expected to handle with no appropriate training whatsoever. Mr. Kelly has now admitted that he said that people would be led away in handcuffs but that it was taken out of context. It is an important point and has been picked up in the press, and I want to explore that.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Again, I have said this earlier, I spent a lot of time at the college last summer-----

I am going to touch on that.

Mr. Niall Kelly

-----until mid-August, or whatever. I spoke to a lot of people. I had a lot of conversations with people. I cannot remember every word I said in the college last year, but I could have said something like, "If it is found that people have been found to have been personally gaining from this, they should be led away in handcuffs." I could have phrased it as something like that. However, as I said, it is hearsay. I cannot recollect every conversation I have had.

Is that Mr. Culhane's interpretation of that remark?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I had a meeting with Superintendent McCabe and this was one of the things he said to me. He was very upset that, effectively, it was a reference to some of the staff in the college, and that is what I just reported.

Returning to Deputy MacSharry's earlier comments, we put it to Mr. Culhane about keeping it in-house and dealing with the problem. In Mr. Culhane's letter of October 2015 to the Commissioner and deputy commissioner, he used several adjectives in respect of Mr. Barrett in that letter. The journalists sitting in the Gallery can tell him the difference between a factual straight report and a colour piece. I suggest that Mr. Culhane's letter is a colour piece because he laced it with adjectives.

I will elaborate.

The letter dated 24 October 2015 from Mr. Michael Culhane to the Commissioner, the deputy commissioner and CEO, refers to the meeting of 14 October. In referencing Mr. John Barrett, Mr. Culhane referred to his usual sweeping style. For anybody who practises journalism or deals with the importance of words, Mr. Culhane is creating a theme using words such as "his usual sweeping style", "he did not believe him" and "he just stopped short of calling the deputy commissioner a liar". Mr. Culhane talks about a "palpable shock of silence in the room", "Mr. Barrett's irrational behaviour" and a "lack of respect for an acting deputy commissioner". He has framed that in a very particular way. He has laced it with adjectives.

Was there a silence in the room because these guys were making things uncomfortable and getting to the heart of the job they were supposed to be doing?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No, in terms of-----

Why would Mr. Culhane write to the Commissioner, given his factual role, lacing it in adjectives that were detrimental to a person, whose role was complementary to his role? He refers to a person's lack of respect for an acting deputy commissioner. It is as if Mr. Culhane was defending the force rather than defending the integrity of the job that was supposed to be done.

Mr. Michael Culhane

There is a certain style in writing. People use words as-----

The point I am trying to make is that one does not use this type of language when giving an account of a meeting. There are some journalists in the Gallery who will explain that to Mr. Culhane. They have to write factual reports about what happens here today. If the editor tells them to write a colour piece they will use adjectives. Mr. Culhane is an executive director of finance and services yet he has laced his letter with adjectives that create a negative impression of a person sitting beside him. I want to get to the heart of why he would do that. Was it a character assassination?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No, I do not believe it was a character assassination.

It looks like one to me. Mr. Culhane refers to Mr. Barrett's "usual sweeping style" and what one elicits from that is Mr. Culhane has a prejudice against this man from the get go, using words like "stopped short of calling him a liar" and "a palpable shock of silence in the room". Why was there a palpable shock of silence in the room?

Mr. Michael Culhane

My recollection of that meeting is that Mr. Barrett was expressing his anger at not receiving the full copy of the inspector's report.

He has told the committee that he has had to FOI stuff.

Mr. Michael Culhane

We just got a chapter each. He got a chapter, I got a chapter. Mr. Barrett was saying that as part of the senior management team he should have received the full copy. There was an exchange of views about that. The acting deputy commissioner at the time explained that on the instructions of the inspectorate, only relevant chapters were to be handed out.

What disturbs me Mr. Culhane is that there is a theme developing, both on the day of our previous meeting, the material in the newspapers in the interim period and what is happing this morning, that this will all be explained away under the catchall, abstract term "culture". By putting a title on it and categorising it, nobody gets named individually and like so many other things here, nobody will be held accountable.

Does Mr. Culhane believe in accountability?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I do, yes.

Without rehashing the report, Mr. Kelly makes a point of referring to this culture at the root of the problem in his conclusions. He said earlier that as an extensive part of his audit, he spent three months at Templemore, talking to people - not just looking at the balance sheets - and getting the background behind the figures. Mr. Kelly said in his opening remarks that the culture may still exist. Given his strong beliefs, his statement that this culture might still exist, his background checks, can he tell me who is responsible for fuelling this culture? Fuelling a culture has to come from a central point. I do not want to hear about culture as an abstract idea, that is not the job of this committee. If at the end of all these hearings, we have a nice tidy package, that it was just the culture going back to the 1960s or the 1980s, we will have achieved nothing. Mr. Kelly will have done himself a disservice if this falls under "culture". Who was fuelling that culture? Who was keeping the information suppressed? Who was making sure that people such as Mr. Barrett were having to put in FOIs?

There is a fear here that by attacking the force, we are attacking every junior garda. We are not. We are trying to find out who is fuelling that culture because Mr. Kelly's report speaks for itself. What I believe people want to hear from this committee is the chain of command of how the off-balance sheet activity and "enterprise", as Mr. Barrett called it developed and existed. I would appreciate if Mr. Kelly could start to categorise the chain of command for us in that culture and to make it real and tangible for us today.

Mr. Niall Kelly

My worry is that this culture may still exist in An Garda Síochána.

When Mr. Kelly states that it may still exist in An Garda Síochána, will he elaborate on that?

Mr. Niall Kelly

There are two audits ongoing at present. I am not sure how I can answer that question.

It goes to the heart of the matter.

Mr. Niall Kelly

It does.

Look at what is happening here today. I am afraid the issue will be put under one big umbrella. There is a very clear divergence of views on the work that Mr. Kelly is doing but there is no good in saying that it was just the culture. Were successive Accounting Officers ignorant of what was happening? Would Mr. Kelly agree or disagree with that statement?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I think the Accounting Officers were well informed. We have a note here-----

Over a successive period?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Over a successive period. It was not coming to internal audit. The culture I am alluding to, as I say in my opening remarks, is one that tries to pretend there is no problem and then tries to fix it in-house. In the documents that have been provided today, there is sufficient evidence for this committee to be able to draw conclusions in terms of names of people.

I need Mr. Kelly to help us in that respect. There is a problem in what Mr. Kelly has just said. People were trying to ignore a problem, but having Mr. Kelly identify the problem, was there willful participation in trying to thwart Mr. Kelly's work or Mr. Barrett's work? That is where we are into dangerous realms.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

That is a whole different ball game. That is why I asked Mr. Kelly whether this was wilful misappropriation or just incompetency. Having discovered that, did others engage in a process to ensure that Kelly and Barrett do not get to the root of what is happening, and there is wilful participation to nullify Mr. Kelly? Is that a culture, or who are the people trying to willfully thwart his work?

Mr. Niall Kelly

As has come out in discussions this morning, the McGee report was not furnished to me.

Is the gentleman sitting beside Mr. Kelly trying to thwart his work?

I ask Mr. Kelly not to comment on that. That is personal.

Chairman, it goes to the heart of the very matter. It is very clear there is a divergence of views. We are after having the head of legal services disagreeing with points that were made.

I need to make this point.

I am in the Chair.

I understand that.

We as committee members will listen but we will not draw conclusions.

None of this is personal. I resent it being said. None of this is personal, it is in respect of the office that Mr. Culhane holds that questions are being put. Of course, one has to put questions to individuals, it does not make it personal. None of it is personal.

It was directed at the person who was beside the office holder.

The point is very simple, Chairman. It is being packaged as an historical legacy issue. An audit will happen and that is fine. The point I am making is that it has been extrapolated here that Mr. Kelly and Mr. Barrett, having uncovered various issues were then being thwarted in their work, having got on a path that was uncomfortable for people. I was asking Mr. Kelly who was thwarting him, if it was the gentleman who is sitting beside him, was Mr. Culhane trying to thwart him and who else was trying to thwart him? I would like to hear that, because otherwise it gets put under an umbrella and we are not able to do a report on it.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I think there is sufficient evidence before this committee to say that the office of the director of finance or, in the past, the office of the deputy commissioner of strategy and change management did not forward information.

The college itself did not forward information to internal audit.

I understand what the witness is saying because he will not use the words "thwart" or "agitate". What Mr. Kelly is saying to me is that the fact that information was not forwarded to him is hindering him and not allowing him to do his job. If Mr. Kelly is saying to me that the executive director of finance and the deputy commissioner are not providing him with information required to do his work, what I am trying to get to here is the chain of command. How high does this go? Who is trying to stop Mr. Kelly from doing his job of uncovering what was obviously a misappropriation of funds? Where does this stop?

Mr. Niall Kelly

As we speak today, nobody is preventing me from-----

We are not talking about 1.10 p.m. here today. We are talking about up until this point. Mr. Barrett's frustration here this morning is quite evident in trying to actually expose what has been happening. I ask Mr. Kelly, and I put the question to Mr. Barrett as well: have they, up until this point at 1.10 p.m. today, been thwarted in trying to expose what they have uncovered and in bringing a resolution to this?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes. Up to when I started this audit in April 2016.

Is that a wilful attempt to make sure that the public do not know the level of potential wrongdoing within the financial set-up? Was that a wilful attempt to make sure that the force and this magical culture was protected at all costs?

Mr. Niall Kelly

As I said the last day here-----

I keep probing this is because the witness is putting this in his conclusion. He is saying that this is the ultimate point here: the culture.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

He cannot just put that in his report, bookend it and think that is it. Who is doing it? Who is trying to stop Mr. Kelly? Is there a larger thing here within An Garda Síochána to make sure that this does not come to light?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I completely agree with the point the Deputy is teasing out. I have said that up to April 2016 there were attempts to stop information coming to me. I believe now that that has changed. I believe now that I am being provided with all the information that I require but yes, I agree with what the Deputy is saying. There is sufficient evidence for the committee members to make up their own minds on the points he is making.

It is very enlightening that the witness names, not only Mr. Culhane as somebody who is trying to thwart him, but the deputy commissioner as well. Where does that leave us with regard to the actual line of questioning for the return visit of the Commissioner? The questioning of what people knew?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I have absolutely no problem with the current deputy commissioner. I also have absolute confidence in the current Commissioner. Doors are being flung open, information is being provided. There are no hindrances to me at the moment but in the past there were.

What would be helpful would be that as Mr. Kelly's work progresses, he and Mr. Barrett provide this committee with an extensive report, not only of where things have gone wrong, which is what Mr. Kelly is examining, but also an appendix of who has tried to thwart him in preventing that information coming to light.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Sufficient evidence has been provided to this committee to make those links.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Chairman, I am being accused of several things here now. It is clear in my minute of May 2008 that I tried to advance this as much as possible. I submitted my report to the chief administrative officer, who in turn submitted it to the Commissioner, who in turn agreed with the recommendations in my report. In parallel to that then, it was given to Deputy Commissioner Rice who was the deputy commissioner SCM at the time. It is clear from his minute that he did not agree with the report. He is quoted here about holding the moneys within the college. Chief Superintendent Nolan, who was the director of training at the time, did a report in 2010 where effectively he introduced easy recommendations but did not fundamentally alter the structure of the college. When chief administrative officer Leamy retired or resigned I was reporting to Deputy Commissioner Rice for approximately two years. I also encountered the same resistance, so I certainly want to put it on the record that I am not thwarting Mr. Kelly in his work. In terms of what I have done and tried to do to address these issues, I did the best I could. If the organisation decided that it did not want these reports or my report to get the visibility it got, it decided it, not me.

Mr. Kelly said a moment ago that he had confidence in the assistant commissioner that he is dealing with and confidence in the Commissioner. That presumably leads us to believe that he is satisfied that there have been improvements.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Just to correct the Chairman: deputy commissioner. I report to Deputy Commissioner Ó Cualáin and I have absolute confidence in him and absolute confidence in the Commissioner.

The last sentence in Mr. Kelly's opening statement here today was, "There is also evident a culture that thinks An Garda Síochána is different from other public sector bodies and that the normal processes of financial procedures and transparent democratic accountability do not apply, for example in Deputy Commissioner Rice's letter of the 18 September 2009." The witness is saying that there is evidence for this in An Garda Síochána and the only thing he is citing to this view today is a letter from eight years ago. Does the witness take my point? He has expressed confidence in the deputy commissioner and the Commissioner. I am trying to be exact here now. I could understand that sentence if it read that there was this culture. Mr. Kelly however is saying "is", as in today. Now he is saying that he has full confidence in the Commissioner. Which is it? Can he clarify that?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Can I change the word to "was" rather than "is"? For clarity.

I want that noted because I consider the difference to be quite important. The final sentence says that there is an issue. Mr. Kelly is now saying that there was an issue.

Mr. Niall Kelly

I am happy to make that change.

We are putting that in because we have to be fair to the people that Mr. Kelly has just praised.

Mr. Niall Kelly

Can I just say that if I find that culture in any of the audit work that I do I will identify it.

And also highlight it?

Mr. Niall Kelly

Yes.

I just want to clarify that.

A quick point of clarification from Mr. Culhane. He pointed out that he was accused of a number of things and that he wanted to put on record that he acted in 2008 and reported it. Am I correct in saying then that Deputy Commissioner Rice came back to Mr. Culhane and said that he disagreed with the report and that that was the end of the matter? Is it fair to say that Mr. Culhane has done nothing since then?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No, it is not. I also gave a copy of the report to Mr. Barrett when he joined the organisation in 2008.

But later? What happened in the intervening six years?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I have a track record of implementing things in the intervening period. In 2009 I wrote to the Revenue Commissioners seeking charitable status for the sports field company. There are emails about the restaurant staff and redundancy in March 2009. There are emails to Chief Superintendent Nolan seeking an update on the training activities in the Garda College, again from March 2009. There is also an exchange of emails between myself, Mr. Leamy and Mr. McGee about the financial controls in the college from June 2009. There are emails from 2009 about potential tax issues in the college arising from various activities, and again in 2010, also regarding tax. Jumping ahead a bit, we met PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2016. There are more emails between myself and Superintendent Nolan about the report, and then in September further emails about the restaurant, the shop and the sports field company.

During that time as well then, when the recession came and the college closed down for a few years, this item, while not quite put on hold, did not perhaps have the same urgency that it should have had. I was dealing with many other issues at the time. This was not the only item on my agenda that required my time. I had a large number of items to attend to. So there was action in the intervening period as well.

Having listened to the evidence given by the witnesses today and on the last day, it is unbelievable that it took until May last year when Mr. Kelly really got to the nuts and bolts of what happened to find out about the mismanagement that has gone on since as far back as the college's upgrade to a third level college in the 1980s. In that length of time cover ups, mismanagement and non-existent corporate governance were occurring in a college that we all had great faith in and through which we put our future gardaí. Here we are and it took until last year to come to the evidence we now hear around the litany of mismanagement. With report after report, the Walsh report, the Fennelly report and the McGee report, it has taken until now to find out what is wrong. It is totally unbelievable that this could be allowed to happen in a modern society and that the system was left in place for so long. We could go through it all day but I will not review what everyone has already said.

Let us go back to previous reports back in 2008 where the CEO noted that the director of finance be authorised to conduct a full and comprehensive audit of all financial activity in the college. The Garda Síochána Internal Audit Service, GIAS, was not informed of the proposed audit at that time. Recommendations put in place at the time included that 13 bank accounts be closed; a new college administrator role was to be established at superintendent rank; and new processes were to be put in place and reviewed at weekly performance accountability framework meetings. Of the 12 specific recommendations from the director of finance's report, only two were implemented. Of the six points agreed in correspondence between the commissioner and the chief administrative officer, none was implemented. Why was this? Why did they not happen, after all the reports down the years?

In 2012 - and I have all the recommendations marked off here - compliance with public procurement requirements was implemented on the recommendations of the Garda inspectorate at the time and the development review group. On 16 July 2015 another report stated it was not happy with the system but the system was still not fixed. I ask Mr. Culhane to explain why not.

Mr. Michael Culhane

It might sound somewhat evasive but the college did not report to me. There is a structure where it is an assistant commissioner who reported to the deputy commissioner. They would have been charged with the responsibility of putting the necessary structures in place. I advised on what structures were required. If they had failed to put the correct structures in place they, rather than me, will have to account for themselves.

Mr. Culhane is the executive director of financial services. That is a high position within the system.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Yes.

Would it not be his responsibility to make sure? Is this passing the buck?

Mr. Michael Culhane

It is not passing the buck. I can only give advice. If people refuse to accept my advice then what can I do? I could not say to a deputy commissioner who is superior to me "I instruct you to do this". With regard to what I can do, I urge that the necessary controls be put in or amended in the organisation, and that they be pressed on that. I have written many reports repeating my recommendations. At times all I can do is to offer the advice and I hope they would see the benefit of it, accept it and implement it.

Even though he may not be able to instruct a deputy commissioner, did Mr. Culhane realise the seriousness of the situation in Templemore? Did he realise how serious the mismanagement and mis-governance was there?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Again, I do not want to go back over what I said-----

Did Mr. Culhane close a blind eye to it?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No, I did not close a blind eye to it, but the structures that were set up there were in place when I joined the organisation in 2000. They were not new. The Department of Justice and Equality had some input into the development of those structures also. Maybe, looking back on it now, one could say that the structures could have been different but they were in place when I joined the organisation.

Reference was made to organisational culture. Mr. Kelly had said in his report - under chronology three - that on Wednesday, June 17 there was a staff meeting of the CAO. He said:

I raised my concerns about the management of the college given what I learned at my meeting there the previous Thursday ... [and that] the Commissioner and all attendees [should be ] very concerned about any poor performance around governance, finance and maladministration ... Michael Culhane pointed out that it was felt that these matters were best kept away from internal audit and would be very serious if they were to come into the view of the controller [sic] and auditor general.

Now, that is serious and it is here in writing in black and white; "Michael Culhane pointed out ..." . Can Mr. Culhane answer that?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I can indeed. There were four people at that meeting, Mr. Barrett, Mr. Dunne, myself and Mr. Liam Kidd who was the executive director of ICT. I have asked them to reflect upon whether I would have stated something like that. Both of them have confirmed that I did not make that statement. We certainly discussed the-----

Is Mr. Culhane sure that Mr. Kelly has this statement wrong?

Mr. Michael Culhane

It was not Mr. Kelly.

Mr. John Barrett

It is my note.

I am sorry, I mixed that up.

Mr. John Barrett

Corroboratory evidence can be delivered from other meetings where similar comments were made.

Here we have two witnesses contradicting one another and we have it in black and white in front of us. We are investigating this and we have two witnesses, sitting side by side, contradicting one another. The taxpayer is probably looking at this. How do the witnesses stand over this?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I could write anything down on a piece of paper and say it was my record of a meeting. It must be proven to be true in order to be actually factual. As I said, I consulted with Mr. Dunne and Mr. Kidd and both of them have confirmed that I did not make that statement.

Mr. Barrett has said he has information that it is true.

Mr. Michael Culhane

Mr. Barrett said that he has other information. That is his note of the meeting.

Did Mr. Culhane mention the Comptroller and Auditor General?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No, I do not-----

Did Mr. Culhane mention the Comptroller and Auditor General? Mr. Barrett said that "Michael Culhane pointed out that it was felt that these matters were best kept away from internal audit and would be very serious if they were to come into the view of the controller [sic] and auditor general." Did Mr. Culhane say that?

Mr. Michael Culhane

No I did not.

So Mr. Culhane did not say any of those two things?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Undoubtedly we discussed the reports-----

A mobile phone is interfering with recording.

Mr. Michael Culhane

-----but it was connected with the report having left lots of unanswered questions. Before we would engage with directly with the Comptroller and Auditor General it would be necessary to continue to explore the reports and to establish some of the answers to the questions. As has already been stated there are complex legal issues in that regard. Even if we had informed the Comptroller and Auditor General in 2008 those legal issues would still have to be addressed. The plan of action was to try to resolve the issues and establish answers to the questions that were being raised.

You say that. Is Mr. Culhane saying that Mr. Barrett has his facts wrong?

Mr. Michael Culhane

Again, I have to go back to my minute from 2008. I recommended that the Comptroller and Auditor General, the internal audit and the Secretary General be brought in at that time.

I do not know. There is something wrong somewhere. There are question marks. I am no judge and jury but there are serious question marks over that statement and over what is being put down here.

Mr. Michael Culhane

I have absolutely nothing to hide. Why would I want to hide something from the Comptroller and Auditor General when, inevitably, as part of the resolution of these issues the Comptroller and Auditor General would be brought in? It does not make sense to me.

We have two professional people sitting side by side giving two different versions of evidence. Can anyone round that square?

Mr. Michael Culhane

If Mr. Dunne was here he would be able to substantiate my statement.

Are there minutes for any of this? I know that Mr. Barrett has taken a record but are there minutes for any of these important meetings that we are referring to all the time? Has the Commissioner or anyone taken minutes of all these meetings?

What is the practice in that regard?

Mr. Michael Culhane

I am not 100% sure whether minutes were kept or not. People may have kept personal notes. That meeting was a branch meeting and under the CAO and it was my understanding that it was meant to be of a general informal nature where we would discuss various issues. I do not believe that minutes were kept.

There were meetings of the audit committee where decisions were made and not just the meeting which is now under discussion. Were minutes taken for all of them? This is a simple question and maybe the witness could elicit from An Garda Síochána, or from somebody, if there are minutes of these very important meetings.

At what level are the minutes taken? I know people need to be at meetings every day, but at what level do meetings require minutes to be taken? Does it have to be a formal meeting? When one goes in to a room, does one meeting have minutes taken and a different meeting does not? Mr. Nugent might give his views on what tends to be minuted and what is not as he is a chief administrative officer.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

The meetings I attend are minuted. I do not know what these particular meetings were, and there were a variety of different types of meetings.

Meetings are minuted, yes.

Most meetings between senior colleagues.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Not all meetings but most meetings. The meetings of the type we are talking about.

Are they on record?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I do not know whether there are minutes of the meetings that are being talked of there.

You are in that office now. Check your predecessor's files, which should be still in your office. You might come back us to help clarify these meetings, in particular if, for any meeting that has been referred to here today, there is a minute in the records. I know you were not there at the time but you are there now

Mr. Joseph Nugent

If there are minutes of any of those meetings, we will pass them on.

That is an official request from the committee. For any meetings referred to here today in the evidence, I ask that you check if there is a record. You know the dates we are talking about. If there is such a record, it should be forwarded to the committee as quickly as possible.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Yes. I will take-----

To finish off what we were dealing with a minute ago, I want to ask all the witnesses whether there is a total breakdown of trust between the witnesses present in regard to all of the evidence that has been given so far and between the Garda authorities, the Commissioner and the assistant commissioners. Is there total mistrust within the whole organisation at the moment, both among the civilians who are here, all working for the good of the Garda, and among the gardaí and the Garda authority itself? Can each one of the witnesses answer that much, given what we are looking at in the evidence today? Is there a total breakdown of communications and trust in the procedures and in the way the whole thing is handled? Are they all at loggerheads with one another or is there any unity of purpose?

Mr. Michael Culhane

The Deputy said "total mistrust". The answer is no. Obviously, like any organisation, there are always differences of opinion. That is inevitable and it is probably a healthy issue that there should be differences of opinion and differences of emphasis-----

This is a little more than healthy.

Mr. Michael Culhane

There will always be differences of opinion. In terms of whether I have total mistrust, which was the second part of the Deputy's question, no, I do not. I respect the professionalism of the individuals and of the directors, and Mr. Kelly, and of the commissioners.

As the legal person, will Mr. Ruane answer me?

Mr. Kenneth Ruane

There are clearly a complex of accounts. On a personal basis, certainly in my own experience, I would not describe it being mistrust between people.

Will Mr. Kelly comment?

Mr. Niall Kelly

I would say, no, there is not mistrust.