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.