Other Questions. - Garda Investigations.

Gerry Reynolds

Ceist:

86 Mr. G. Reynolds asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if charges have been brought against members of the Garda Síochána as a consequence of an investigation (details supplied); if charges have been brought against other persons; if it is anticipated that further charges may be brought; if members of the Garda Síochána are under suspension who were involved in business dealings on behalf of the Garda Síochána with the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27683/01]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

143 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made regarding the investigation into allegations that members of the Garda may have improperly accepted gifts and hospitality from a company supplying tyres to the Garda; if this matter is the subject of a criminal investigation; if a report has been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27664/01]

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

443 Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if charges have been brought against a member or members of the Garda Síochána as a consequence of the investigations into contacts with a company (details supplied); if charges have been brought against another person or persons; if it is anticipated that further charges may be brought; if a member or members of the Garda Síochána who were involved in business dealings on behalf of the Garda Síochána with this company are under suspension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27687/01]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86, 143 and 443 together.

As two of these questions were for oral answer not more than 12 minutes is allocated.

The background to this matter is by now well known. However, for ease of reference I will again set out the facts. A newspaper article – published on Sunday 11 February 2001 – alleged that members of the Garda Síochána and a civilian employee at Garda headquarters had participated in trips abroad paid for by a company which supplies tyres to the Garda Síochána.

On 13 February 2001, I advised the House that the Garda Commissioner had asked a chief superintendent to look at the allegations. I also advised the House that I was of the view that the matter warranted an external examination and that the Secretary General of my Department, in his capacity as accounting officer for the Garda Vote, had instructed the internal audit unit of the Department to examine the matter.

The matter subsequently became the subject of a criminal investigation and I was informed by the Garda authorities that the chief superintendent appointed by the Garda Commissioner submitted an investigation file to the Director of Public Prosecutions on 20 April 2001 on the matters alleged. I was also informed that on 3 August 2001 the DPP sought additional information and that a further file was submitted on 13 September 2001. The directions of the DPP are currently awaited.

The investigation being carried out by the internal audit unit in the Department is continuing. They have raised certain queries – that may be of a criminal nature – with the Garda authorities which relate to the ongoing criminal investigation. These queries are now the subject of a criminal investigation and, in respect of which, a file will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions in due course.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that to date no charges have been brought against any member of the Garda Síochána or against any other persons in connection with this matter. No one is currently suspended – although I am informed by the Garda authorities that one member was suspended for a day while being interviewed as part of the investigation.

I understand the Comptroller and Auditor General is carrying out a value for money examination of the purchasing of tyres by the Garda Síochána and this is expected to be finalised soon. When I have received the report, I intend to lay copies before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Has the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform completed his investigations into the matter and will the Minister clarify what conclusions, if any, he has reached? Will the Minister acknowledge that when difficulties occur within the Garda force that give rise to public disquiet, it takes far too long before investigations undertaken are concluded and before there is transparency and accountability to this House and to the general public? Does the Minister agree that this is yet another example of that sort of difficulty? When is it likely the full story of what occurred will be known?

The Comptroller and Auditor General has completed his value for money examination of the purchasing of tyres by the Garda Síochána and as soon as I receive that report I will lay it before both Houses. As it is completed I expect to receive it fairly soon.

Has the Secretary General of the Department concluded his?

The Secretary General's investigation is continuing, that is the investigation by the internal audit unit of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Certain queries that may be of a criminal nature have been raised with Garda authorities. These queries are now the subject of a criminal investigation and a file in respect of these will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions in due course. When the Garda response to these queries has been received the internal audit unit expects to be in a position to finalise its report on the matter.

This report will be furnished to me and to the Secretary General of my Department in his capacity as the accounting officer. I will keep the House fully informed on the outcome of the internal audit report. However, unlike the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the internal audit report is likely to focus on potentially criminal behaviour. The House will appreciate that care must be taken to respect the rights of individuals and must ensure that nothing is done that might prejudice potential criminal or civil proceedings. It may not be possible, therefore, to publish the report of the internal audit unit in full.

On the issue of delays, Deputy Shatter will be more aware than most that there are times when criminal investigations can take a protracted period of time. There is very little I can do about this. I have no control over the length of the period of investigation. I can only try to ensure that reports are made available to Members as quickly as possible. I anticipate that this matter will be finalised in the not too distant future.

Are there general guidelines and monitoring procedures within the Garda Síochána in regard to gifts and hospitality?

The Garda Síochána discipline regulations of 1989 and the Garda code actually set out the position regarding acceptance of gifts. Garda authorities are in the process of drawing together the relevant sections in the code and regulations into one single set of guidelines which will incorporate best practice world wide in this area and will also be thorough, comprehensive and transparent.

Under the ethics in public office prescribed public body designated directorships and designated positions in public bodies regulations of 1997 the Garda commissioners, deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners and the chief superintendents as well as those superintendents in the areas of supplies and equipment, finance, transport and housing are prescribed as persons who occupy designated positions in a public body under the Act. Section 18 imposes the requirement to make returns on interests which could materially influence the person in, or in relation to, the performance of the functions of the position.

The Minister said the Secretary General in his Department raised queries with the Garda Síochána in this matter and the replies are awaited. When were the queries raised by the Secretary General and how long have they been awaited? Are those members of the Garda Síochána whose behaviour is considered to be under investigation co-operating with the Secretary General in providing answers to questions raised and are they co-operating with any internal Garda investigation taking place? When does he expect the investigation and that of his Secretary General will conclude? Does the Minister agree it is in the public interest that the outcome of the Secretary General's investigation is put on the record of this House?

The investigation is being carried out by the internal audit unit in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and it will report to the Secretary General in due course. I cannot give timescales to Deputy Shatter. Everything that could be done has been done to bring finality to this very serious matter. There may well be criminal charges arising out of these investigations. I cannot say when the investigations will be completed. I have no reason to believe that people are not co-operating with the investigations. I will put the Comptroller and Auditor General's report before the House as soon as I receive it. It has been completed. I hope the other report will be completed at a very early date, but to put a timescale on it would be to give hostage to fortune and I am not prepared to do that.