I thank the Chairman and the committee for the invitation to the meeting to examine the 2020 appropriation account of An Garda Síochána. My team has already been introduced to the committee.
The 2020 gross expenditure of An Garda Síochána was €1.94 billion. After taking account of appropriations-in-aid of €115 million, the net expenditure was just over €1.8 billion. Funding is provided to An Garda Síochána through Vote 20 and it supports all of our policing activities. The year 2020 was an unprecedented year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and was an extremely challenging year for policing and for all of our citizens. Public health was of the utmost importance and required unparalleled restrictions on freedom of movement of people, normal business activities, sporting and social activities. An Garda Síochána was tasked with policing and supporting the Government, the community and businesses on the measures imposed due to Covid-19. As an organisation, we responded quickly, and in doing so gardaí and staff members demonstrated commitment, flexibility and resilience in this emergency, and dedication to the continued protection of our society and citizens.
Some immediate actions undertaken included maximising the availability of gardaí for high-visibility community policing, which necessitated new roster arrangements, restrictions on annual leave, the postponement of some retirements, the acceleration of the attestation of some 300 student gardaí and the allocation of additional gardaí to front-line duties. Operation Fanacht was put in place and this consisted of an extensive network of thousands of checkpoints established across the country, with more than 2,500 gardaí involved with these checkpoints daily at the height of the restrictions. Other activities included supporting members of the public and community who were cocooning. We delivered essential supplies, including food and medicines, worked with the Government on Covid-19 emergency legislation and the provision of Covid-19 advice with our office of internal communications, OIC.
Importantly, 2020 also saw the launch of Operation Faoiseamh in response to the increase in domestic abuse-related calls received by An Garda Síochána during the Covid-19 pandemic. The objective of this operation was to provide enhanced support and protection to victims of domestic abuse, and 22,795 contacts and attempted contacts were made by members of An Garda Síochána with victims of domestic abuse during 2020. The organisation also responded to more than 43,000 calls for assistance in respect of domestic abuse incidents and more than 11,600 criminal charges were created in 2020 for crimes involving an element of domestic abuse, including breaches of domestic violence orders. We also accelerated the implementation of technology across the organisation, providing the platform for personnel to move quickly to remote working and the provision of 3,000 mobile data stations to front-line gardaí. We also provided essential personal protective equipment, PPE, in an effective manner to our members and staff during this time, resulting in An Garda Síochána maintaining an employee resilience rate of approximately 95%.
In addition to policing activity related to Covid-19 measures, normal policing services continued. This was essential for the prevention, detection and investigation of crime, which continued to be committed. An example was the collection of more than €45 million related to seizures of illicit drugs and cash. Numerous firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition were also seized. Work also continued on cybercrime, with some 400 new cases reported and 333 cases closed in 2020.
Policing activity in Ireland is funded in the main through the Exchequer, and while the activities required due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic can make comparisons with other times somewhat difficult, I am confident as the Accounting Officer of An Garda Síochána that public moneys under my control were expended in 2020 in accordance with the ethos of value for money and investing in the future of our services on behalf of the Government and our citizens. This investment included maintaining and building the capital structure to support our policing. We continue to invest in our fleet, which is obviously an essential resource for Garda operations, and we reached a record number of 3,100 vehicles in 2020. In line with Government policies on sustainability, climate change and low carbon emissions, we are in the process of developing strategies to move to a more sustainable fleet of electric vehicles, EVs, and a pilot programme is in place.
The property portfolio in use by An Garda Síochána is extensive. It includes more than 560 stations and a range of other national support, administrative and specialist facilities. As the structure of the organisation evolves, there is also a need to ensure the estate aligns with evolving operational needs. A number of refurbishments and upgrades were completed in 2020 and work commenced on the site of a new Garda security and crime operations centre at Military Road. Not all the bureaux currently based in Harcourt Square will be transferring to the new centre at Military Road, with some being allocated elsewhere. Accommodation solutions are being provided by the Office of Public Works, OPW, to meet the requirements of all these bureaux. Accommodation is a crucial element of facilitating policing activities and we must further future-proof in this area. Hence, my officials continue to engage with the OPW on capital and maintenance works across Ireland. This includes an exciting project where we are working with the OPW in Dublin City Council on the proposed development of a substantial new Garda station and facilities on Dublin City Council lands at the corner of the R139 and Malahide Road at Northern Cross.
My officials have provided a written response on the implementation of the committee's previous recommendations. While the pandemic has impacted the rate of progress on some of these matters, I assure the Chair and members that I take the committee's recommendations very seriously and that we are working on completing the implementation stage.
Tragically, we were all given a stark reminder in 2020 of the risks run by gardaí while carrying out their duties when our esteemed colleague, Detective Garda Colm Horkan, was killed on duty on 17 June 2020. Colm had served his local community for 24 years and was well known and respected for his police work and community work, particularly with his local GAA team.
I take this opportunity to thank most sincerely all the people who worked in and with An Garda Síochána for the delivery of policing services during the Covid-19 pandemic and the Minister and the Department of Justice for their assistance and support. I also thank the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, and his staff for their work and the committee for the time provided for this opening statement.