Clockwise from bottom left: Chief Financial Officer Michael Culhane; Deputy Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin; Chief Superintendent Anne Marie McMahon; Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan; form Chief Administration Officer Cyril Dunne; Executive Director of Human Resources and People Development John Barrett and Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly
This morning, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan returns to the the Public Accounts Committee to field more questions about the Garda College.
You may recall reports of complex financial irregularities amid Byzantine-like accounting practices at the college in Templemore, Co Tipperary.
These irregularities concern matters of accounting and commercial practice, land ownership, the existence of unapproved bank and investment accounts, potential taxation and pension liability.
Plus questionable employment arrangements contrary to regulation, the collection of rental income from lands owned by the OPW, revenue generated in the Garda College ending up in more than 40 bank accounts and surplus funds – some of which should have been returned to the State – being used to purchase assets or put into private bank or credit union accounts or private Garda sporting facilities instead.
At its peak, a total sum of €2.3million in cash was held in various accounts, while questions remain over whether the Garda College is tax compliant.
Concerns about these financial irregularities were first reported by John Mooney, of The Sunday Times, in January of this year.
The Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan went on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, the following day, to say these matters were “legacy issues”.
Since then, an interim audit report about these irregularities was completed by the head of internal audit at An Garda Siochana Niall Kelly.
This audit report was given to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in March. Mr Kelly was asked to examine the Garda College after concerns were raised by John Barrett, head of HR, in the summer of 2015.
Contrary to the matters being solely “legacy issues”, as Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, who became Garda Commissioner in 2014, maintained, Mr Kelly told one of these PAC meetings:
“I was asking questions in 2008 and 2009 but I was not getting answers. In March 2011, in relation to the 2010 accounts, I got assurances that issues were being addressed. What happened in 2011 was that effectively the college closed and there was very little activity. Between 2011 and 2014, if I had gone to audit I probably would not have found anything because effectively we were doing nothing. In 2014-2015 these issues started arising again. In 2016, we were brought in to do the audit.”
Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan appointed former head of bureau at National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI), based at Harcourt Street, Dublin, Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll to conduct a review of Niall Kelly’s audit report into the financial irregularities.
Assistant Commissioner O’Driscoll will make recommendations to Ms O’Sullivan on whether any laws have been broken.
On Sunday, John Mooney, in The Sunday Times, reported that, last month, Niall Kelly’s team at Garda Internal Audit Section (GIAS) found large sums of public money were routed to secret credit union and bank accounts in Dublin, opened and controlled by gardai.
Mr Mooney reported:
“One source described what had been uncovered as a highly organised scheme to divert funds away from the training college over a protracted period of time. The amount of money identified so far is about €100,000. The audit team has taken possession of cheques, stubs and records which show payments being made to individual gardai from the accounts.”
“The investigation is examining the transfer of funds to a current account opened at the AIB Cabra branch in Dublin. An investigation has discovered that some payments initially lodged into the AIB account were subsequently transferred to an account opened at Saint Raphael’s garda credit union.”
Mr Mooney further reported that Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan was briefed about this last Friday and was expected to get a written report on the matter yesterday.
In addition, on Saturday, Sarah Bardon, in The Irish Times, reported that the use of EU funds at the Garda College has come to the attention of the European Court of Auditors and it is now analysing information that it has received on the matter.
In addition, Broadsheet understands that yesterday Mr Niall Kelly sent a letter to the chairman of Public Accounts Committee Sean Fleming to inform him that he has sent a Draft Report on EU Funded Programmes and Projects to the Garda Commissioner.
In it Mr Kelly says:
“I should also inform you that I have forward that I have forwardled the draft report to Deputy Commissioner Policing and Security having taken legal advice from Mr Ruane (Head of Legal Affairs) and considering my obligations as an auditor to report any suspicion that fraudulent activity may have occurred, to An Garda Siochana as set out in section 59 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences Act) 2001.”
The following is a is a four-decade timeline of events pertaining to the Garda College’s finances:
August 12, 1977: A letter from the Revenue Commissioners confirms that the Garda Mess Committee is exempt from VAT. The Garda Mess Committee subsequently becomes the Garda Restaurant.
1981: Noirin O’Sullivan attends the Garda College for six months as a recruit.
1988: A review of Garda training and education, called the Walsh Report, recommends that the Garda College be upgraded to third-level status. For this to happen, facilities such as sports facilities need to be provided. A scheme is set up to provide funding for these facilities. It involves:
– A weekly grant/fee for food and lodgings, including laundry, for each student. It is €77.92 per student per week.
– The Garda College Restaurant and Shop are set up as committees separate from the standard Garda College financial controls. They are not set up as companies. Accumulated funds made by the restaurant and shop are transferred to Sportsfield Company Ltd or invested in various investment accounts opened periodically by the Garda College.
1993: The Sportsfield Company Ltd is set up to develop sports facilities. All four directors are serving gardai. Gardai need the permission of the Minister for Justice in order to become a director of a company.
The Department of Justice, including the then Head of Internal Audit in the department, is consulted in relation to these arrangements, while the secretary general of the Department of Justice is the accounting officer for the Garda Vote until July 2006 – when the Garda Commissioner of the day becomes the accounting officer.
2000: Michael Culhane joins An Garda Siochana and is the director of finance.
May, 10, 2000 – February 10, 2003: Four separate payments, totalling €100,000 in all, are transferred from the Garda College Sportsfield Company Ltd to the Garda Boat Club – a private sports club whose members and managers comprise mainly of serving and retired gardai and their families. The €100,000 is the largest transfer to a sports club from the Sportsfield account.
During this period, the then Deputy Commissioner, Strategy and Resource Management TP Fitzgerald is also the president of the Garda Siochana Boat Club.
Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly later says in his internal audit report that Mr Fitzgerald told him:
“The assistance given by the Garda College to the Boat Club was given for the right reason.”
In addition, executive director of human resources and people development John Barrett would later write, in minutes of a June 2, 2016 meeting he held with chairman of the Garda Audit Committee Michael Howard in relation to these payments to the Garda Boat Club:
“I believe that it may be worthwhile reviewing the background to this and the career interconnectedness of the parties involved in this and perhaps other transactions. A full review of the career progression and service interrelatedness of those who were aware of or exerted influence or authority over the college, the bank accounts, investment and expenditure from the Garda College accounts is to be recommended.”
2000s: Following her promotion to the rank of superintendent, Noirin O’Sullivan spends time in the Garda College in charge of specialist training – detective, firearms and other specialist training.
2005: Under the Garda Siochana Act 2005 – and in an apparent move towards financial accountability and transparency – the Accounting Officer of the Garda College becomes the Garda Commissioner of the day. Until 2005, it had been the responsibility of the Secretary General of the Department of Justice.
In addition, land and buildings in the entire estate of An Garda Siochana become the responsibility of the Office of Public Works (OPW) and the Gardai Commissioner is now precluded from owning land.
The Audit Committee is also established under the Garda Siochana Act 2005.
2005-2008: Superintendent Pat McCabe is the administrator of the restaurant. His predecessor is Yvonne O’Connor.
2006: Concerns are first expressed about finances in the Garda College in an incomplete and unfinished audit conducted by the Garda Internal Audit Section (GIAS), a year before GIAS is restructured. It is not known who wrote this report.
June 2007: Niall Kelly starts working as Head of Internal Audit at An Garda Siochana. He reports to Deputy Commissioner TP Fitzgerald for two years. (From 2009 to 2014, Mr Kelly reports to Deputy Commissioner Nacie Rice and, now, Mr Kelly reports to Deputy Commissioner Donal Ó Cualáin).
Before 2007, Mr Kelly worked as head of internal audit in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. When he started at AGS, there was an internal audit in place. This was staffed by uniformed gardai who did not have the requisite professional experience. Mr Kelly restructured this.
September 13, 2007: A report on Garda Management and Leadership Development by an advisory group, chaired by former senator and member of the Patten Commission Maurice Hayes, is published. The Irish Times reports:
“A new report on Garda management has recommended that the force be run like a private corporation, led by a partly civilianised board of management, with fast track promotion for bright, young gardaí and “personal coaches” for senior officers who become ‘lonely’ in management roles.
December 14, 2007: A letter is sent from Revenue confirming that VAT registration has been cancelled on the Garda Siochana Golf and Leisure Club.
March 2008: An on-site examination and shadow report of the Garda College is called for by the Chief Administration Officer John Leamy. Between March 10 and March 25, Barry McGee, from the Office of the Executive Director of Finance, finalises the examination, resulting in a 53-page report. The report, which is known as the McGee report, is overseen by executive director Michael Culhane.
Mr McGee obtains documents concerning accounts for 2007 which are signed by Superintendent Patrick McCabe, the College Administrator. Mr McGee doesn’t become aware of the unfinished 2006 report until 2017.
Supt McCabe is also listed as one of the directors of the Garda College Sportsfield Company Ltd in 2006 and 2005.
The McGee report uncovers “discrepancies in compliance to public financial procedures” and urges the issues to be addressed “immediately”.
It outlines how there are a number of organisations and subcommittees controlled by appointed officers from Templemore College. They are:
Garda College Restaurant
Garda College Shop
Garda Sportsfield Company Ltd
Garda College Sports and Social Club
Garda College Golf and Leisure Club
In addition to that, the college administration section administers four accounts:
College Imprest Account
Library Imprest Account
EU Funded Course Bank Account
There are also organisations external to Templemore which are also “funded externally” but recieve payments or money transfers from organisations controlled by the college administration:
Welfare (society whereby deductions are made from salary and students allowances to fund miscellaneous activities such as presentations, etc)
The report says the Garda College Restaurant, Shop, Sportsfield Company Ltd, Sports and Social Club, Golf and Leisure Club and Laundry Account have been “operating outside governmental accounting regulations and public financial procedures”.
And “there also may be legal implications and governance issues associated with employees of An Garda Siochana being appointed as directors to the Garda Sportsfield Company Ltd. A restructuring process needs to be initiated in respect of the college”.
The McGee report also says: The high number of organisations, subcommittees and bank accounts makes it difficult to maintain “proper internal controls” and to “ascertain the legal nature of these organisations”.
The College Restaurant
The McGee report finds the main source of income for the College Restaurant is the Department of Justice, in the form of weekly allowances – €71.42 per student, per week for those boarding at the college. It’s paid directly into the College Restaurant bank account and is a charge to the Garda Vote (Garda expenditure voted, and agreed to, every year by the Dáil).
The College Restaurant also receives money from the cash register when visitors pay for meals or when the restaurant is used for events.
The Welfare Account also makes a payment to the College Restaurant in respect of a groundsman who is employed by the Sportsfield Company to maintain the grounds.
And it receives money in relation to entertainment and contributions to Executive Leadership Programmes. These payments are approved by an authorising officer who is also the administrator of the College Restaurant.
The College Restaurant’s main expense is paying suppliers and payroll while, the McGee report notes, that the level of expenditure for meals and entertainment in 2007 was notably high – at €22,753.
The McGee report notes:
“There are financial control and governance issues associated with this process, as there are no segregation of duties involved and no sanction is sought from the Finance Directorate in relation to these payments.”
As of December 31, 2007, the accumulated surplus of the College Restaurant is €2,106,708, while investments held by the College Restaurant are valued at €1,385,789.
It also has a cash reserve of €555,892 – €500,000 of which was invested in St Raphael’s Credit Union on May 2, 2007.
As of January 9, 2008, the interest and dividends made on this account is €7,397.25.
St Raphael’s Credit Union sponsors the Garda College GAA Club in a deal worth €40,000. A write down/loss is incorporated into the accounts for €52,312 for the reduction in the valuation of the investments. There is also a loan of €15,000 to the GAA club disclosed under sundry debtors.
According to the St Raphael Credit Union’s 2016 annual report, most of its directors are current or retired gardaí, some of whom work with the NBCI.
The McGee report also notes that source documents, such as invoices, pre-2007, are not archived or kept, therefore breaching the seven-year rule of maintaining source documentation.
It also says there’s no evidence that minutes were kept when decisions were made in relation to the profits of the College Restaurant – such as opening investment funds and sending profits to the Garda Boat Club, GAA Club or Sportsfield Company, etc.
The McGee report adds:
“The College Restaurant is being used as a financing body as a source of funds to procure or develop certain aspects of the operations of the Garda College. This is not in adherence to correct public financial practice as it means major projects or expenditure can be processed without obtaining Finance Sanction or input from the Finance Directorate of An Garda Siochana.
“This also causes problems for asset management in An Garda Siochana when assets are being acquired or being developed using transfers from the surplus generated from the College Restaurant. The examination has unveiled significant instance of this type of occurrence.”
“The administrator of the Restaurant who signs the Restaurant’s audited financial statements is also a director of Sportsfield Ltd company. There are segregation of duties associated with the practice of transferring funds from the Restaurant account to the Sportsfield Company.”
According to the McGee report, the main income of shop is the sale of goods to students. There are also cheques from the college administration account receipted by the College Shop. The main expenditure of the Shop is stock and payroll.
However, in 2007, there was an entertainment expense of €4,567 debited from the College Shop account, while the wages bill increased 131% from 2006 to 2007.
This is due to staff from the restaurant working at the shop. One person who works at the shop is an employee of the Department of Justice.
The McGee report notes:
“Again it is difficult to ascertain the legal status of the shop… The administrator signing the annual audited financial statements is a member of management from the college at superintendent rank. This complicates the issues of the entities’ legal status further.”
Like the restaurant, source records from the shop, such as invoices, are not kept pre-2006 – breaching the seven-year rule of maintaining source documents. And there are no records of minutes detailing the decision-making process for the financial management of the shop.
In addition, the administrator for the shop is the same as for the restaurant who is at the rank of superintendent.
Garda Sportsfield Company Ltd
Sportsfield Company was set up in 1992 and used to develop assets for the college. It acquired land worth €48,188 and then went on to develop various sporting facilities.
The McGee report says:
“The method of setting up a company to develop such facilities means that the ability to apply governmental financial practice is negated. It also took the centralised control from An Garda Siochana Finance Directorate and transferred it locally to the appointed directors of the Garda Sportsfield Company Ltd.
“There is no evidence of sanction obtained to set up the company and there are potential negative issues to members from the administration section of the Garda College becoming directors and the regulations and legal obligations that is inferred on directors under the relevant companies’ acts.
“The monies used to acquire and develop the Sportsfield assets were obtained through transferring monies from the College Restaurant Treasury account. The decision to transfer such monies would have been sanctioned by management who are acting as administrators for the College Restaurant and also are acting as directors of the Garda Sportsfield Company Ltd.
“This is definitely a breach in the financial control environment and writes off the ability for An Garda Siochana to manage, control and appropriate effectively monies which are voted through Oireachtas.”
Money from the College Restaurant is not only used to develop the Sportsfield asset base, it’s also used in the day-to-day operation of Garda Sportsfield Ltd.
“The accumulated appropriation of these funds is disclosed in the Garda Sportsfield Ltd accounts as being grant/capital. For 2006, the figure represented in the accounts as grants under accruals and deferred income amounts to €1,546,639. From discussions with the appointed accountant, a letter signing off that this amount of money is non-repayable is obtained from the college. No corresponding figure is displayed in the College Restaurant accounts to disclose the accumulated distributions from the College Restaurant to the College Sportsfield Ltd.
“…I also draw attention to the appropriations of profits made from the Garda Sportsfield Company Ltd, from discussion with the accountant, these are payments made outside the remit or normal expenditure of running the company. For example, in 2006, two payments were made which are classified as appropriations, these were payments of €2,940 to Murphy’s Pub in respect of some function and a payment of €596.80 to O’Donohoe’s in relation to the hire of a marquee.”
Garda College Golf and Leisure Club
In 1997, directors of the Garda College decided to establish the Garda College Golf and Leisure Club – to develop sports, social and recreational facilities on the lands at Manna South.
Sportsfield used money from the College Restaurant (mainly) to develop assets of the Golf and Leisure Club. Golf and Leisure Club ceased trading in 2006 – as it was losing money.
There are no accounting transfer journals or adjustments to disclose the transfer of assets from Sportsfield to the Golf and Leisure Club.
At the time of the McGee report, a local committee is running the club and charged yearly rent of €12,600. The rent is 18 months in arrears.
There is a 2002 Revenue bill of €118,598.61 – because an invalid VAT claim was made on behalf of the Golf and Leisure Club even though the contract for developing the assets was procured and transacted through the Garda Sportsfield Company Ltd.
The McGee report states:
“The decision-making process of developing and opening a golf course is not well documented. The monies to develop the Club were obtained through the College Restaurant, again there is a breach of financial regulatory practice because the administrator of the College Restaurant is also a director of the Sportsfield Company Ltd and an administrator of the Garda College Golf and Leisure Club.”
The McGee report finds:
“Our examination unveiled malpractice in the administration of the Laundry Account. Certain payment which could be deemed disallowable under normal circumstances have been processed through this account.”
Such payments include:
– Payments of loans to staff
– Certain bonuses
– Funding of entertainment expenses
– Sporting expenses
McGee also finds:
“There is a lack of financial control being applied to the administration of the Laundry A/C.”
“There are also receipts being lodged to the Laundry Account in respect of certain courses such as AGIS and CEPOL. These are to cover accommodation costs for the delegates involved in the courses. It is difficult to ascertain the reason why these charges are being allocated and lodged to the Laundry AC.
“In certain instances, these payments have been paid to the College Restaurant initially and then paid subsequently to the Laundry AC. The financial regulatory practices governing this account are poor.
“Once monies are lodged to this account, the controls placed on the authorising process of expenditure through this account are lax.”
Garda Sports and Leisure Club
The McGee report finds:
“There are issues pertaining to the granting of loans from he Garda Restaurant and the Garda Shop to the Garda Sports and Leisure Club. This club registered for VAT and returned are made in respect of the Club to the Revenue Commissioners by the appointed accountant.”
This is a social club account used for certain miscellaneous activities but it is funded through an allocation from allowances and salaries of staff and students, including payments (€1.27 per student per week) made through the College Restaurant. These payments are automatically calculated and paid without permission sought from individual students.
GAA Club, Coiste Roinne and Boat Club
McGee report finds:
“Appropriations from the receipts of the Garda College, Garda Shop and Laundry AC have been credited to the bank accounts of the above organisation. This practice needs to be curtailed. There may be conflict of interest issues associated with these type of transactions.”
The McGee report goes on to make 12 recommendations but only two are eventually implemented.
And of six points later agreed in correspondence between the then Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and the chief administrative officer John Leamy, none was implemented.
April 2008: The McGee report is finished. Many of its concerns will be identified again in a report by Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly some nine years later, in 2017.
April 25, 2008: In a note to the then Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy, the then Chief Administrative Officer John Leamy advises that the Audit Committee within An Garda Siochana be informed of the McGee report.
But the McGee report is not given to the GIAS (Garda Internal Audit Section) and, according to Niall Kelly, in his 2017 report, “was only discovered as part of this [interim 2017] audit in June 2016”.
In addition, there is no record of any such briefing in the minutes of the Audit Committee’s June 2008 meeting or any subsequent meeting.
Mr Leamy also advises that the Director of Finance Michael Culhane be authorised to conduct a full and comprehensive audit of all the financial activities in the college.
But GIAS is not told about the proposed audit.
Mr Leamy also advises that, after Mr Culhane’s report is done, the Comptroller & Auditor General be informed. However, there is no evidence that this ever happened.
May 8, 2008: Commissioner Fachtna Murphy responds to CAO John Leamy and agrees with all his points.
May 25, 2008: Executive Director of Finance and Services Michael Culhane writes to the Chief Administration Officer John Leamy, recommending that the report be forwarded to the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and the Comptroller and Auditor General.
This did not happen and Mr Culhane did not follow up on this.
2008-2012: Superintendent Sarah Myler is administrator of the Garda College Restaurant. Supt Myler later becomes a director of Sportsfield Company Ltd.
October 2008 – April 2009: Noirin O’Sullivan, now Assistant Commissioner, is involved in the area of human resources at the Garda College.
2008-2009: Efforts made by the head of internal audit Niall Kelly, to get a copy of the Barry McGee report are unsuccessful.
September 18, 2009: Deputy Commissioner Nacie Rice – who is in charge of the Garda College at this point – writes a note to the Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and says:
“I strongly believe that any surplus money does not belong to the State but rather is owned by the members of An Garda Siochana 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 Siochana.”
Niall Kelly tells a meeting of the PAC, on May 31, 2017, that Deputy Commissioner Nacie Rice did not seek his advice before sending this note to the Garda Commissioner and that, if Deputy Commissioner Rice had, Mr Kelly would have told him that this was contrary to section C5.19 of the Public Financial Procedures which, under the heading “Exchequer Extra Receipts” says:
“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.”
2009: Michael Culhane, who was previously Director of Finance, is promoted to Chief Financial Officer. He laters tells a meeting of the PAC, on May 31, 2017, that, in 2009, he wrote to the Revenue Commissioners seeking charitable status for the Sportsfield Company Ltd.
March 3, 2010: Chief Superintendent Jack Nolan (Director of Training and Development) responds to the McGee report.
“I was heartened to see that the financial audit concluded by Mr B McGee, Office of the Executive Director of Finance did not suggest any misappropriation of funds by anyone at the Garda College.”
He reports that 13 bank accounts, out of an original 29 accounts, are now closed; a new college administrator is established at superintendent rank (Supt Sarah Meyler); and new processes have been put in place.
In a list of restructured accounts, Mr Nolan reports that there is a total balance of €1,407,346.03 across four CEPOL accounts.
2010 – end of 2013: Garda College effectively closes down.
April 1, 2010: A letter from Revenue confirms tax exemption for the Garda College Sportsfield Co Ltd on the basis of it being “for the sole purpose of promoting athletic or amateur game or sport”.
April 15, 2010: Chief Administration Officer John Leamy sends a letter to Michael Culhane saying:
“Thanks Michael. I had a meeting yesterday with Niall Kelly on a couple of IA [internal audit] reports and issues. He again raised the issue of the Garda College Finance Reports. After a lot of tooing and frooing he agreed holding off completing the college IA report for a period of 3 months. I reckon that is enough time for us to sort out the taxation and any other financial issues and get a final report to the Commissioner. Will you work to that deadline and get all the outstanding issues resolved, say end of July? Thanks, John.”
2009-2013: Rents collected for the rental of Dromard Farm amount to €124,903 and this money is lodged to the College Restaurant account.
This rent was collected even though the Office of Public Works (OPW) legally owns the land and only the OPW is legally entitled to any money derived from the land.
Dromard Farm was bought by OPW in 2007. It’s about 5km from the Garda College. After the property crash, the site lay idle for several years and, following complaints from neighbouring farms (about overgrown weeds), it was decided to lease the land out to local farmers.
In addition, money from the rental of Dromard Farm, via the College Restaurant account between 2010 and 2013, was spent on, among other things:
Garda Boat Club sponsorship
Lyons’ Club Donation
Presentation on retirement
Presentation on transfer Supt
Murphy’s restaurant entertainment
Presentation on Retirement AC
Fiacri House Restaurant Retirement
Presentation to Commissioners Retirement
St Joseph’s National School – donation
Later, in 2017, the head of internal audit Niall Kelly recommends that that the €124,903 collected for the rent of Dromard Farm be transferred to the OPW and that it should be paid from the Garda Vote.
October 1, 2010: The Garda Internal Audit Section (GIAS) finds that, as of October 1, 2010, St Raphael (Garda Credit Union) Bar Account had a balance of €417,068 but this dropped over years with large amounts (payments of €100,000 each) being tansferred to the Garda Restaurant Account in the years following.
These transfers are made to keep the restaurant going when student numbers are low.
March 2011 – August 2016: Chief Superintendent Anne Marie McMahon is responsible for the Garda College and becomes a director of Sportsfield Company Ltd.
She is still a director of the company.
Chief Supt McMahon tells a PAC meeting, on June 14, 2017: “I am a director of the company by virtue of my role in An Garda Síochána, not as Anne Marie McMahon.”
At the same PAC meeting, Chief Supt McMahon says she didn’t make any standards in public office submission because she received informal legal advice, from Assistant Commissioner Eugene Corcoran, that she did not need to. However she made declarations retrospectively.
March 2, 2011: Niall Kelly, head of internal audit, forwards the first draft of his report in respect of the 2010 financial controls to the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
It included the following paragraphs:
“GIAS can provide no assurance in regard to the financial controls in place in the Garda College Templemore or the expenditure of the College. In 2008 the Head of Internal Audit [John Leamy] in the course of reviewing old audit files from the period prior to his commencement in June 2007 became aware of serious issues of concern emanating from a draft audit report dated from 2006. At that stage (2008) we sought to conduct an audit of the financial controls in the Garda College but were informed that the Finance Directorate were updating the financial systems in the college and advised that we await the outcome of this work. In August 2009 we commenced our audit work.
“During the course of this audit work we became aware that the Finance Directorate were actively writing a report on the finances in the college. At that point (December 2009) we suspended our audit pending the conclusion of the Finance Directorate Report. We have sought access to this report [the Barry McGee report] on several occasions since but have been told that it is still in draft, a version of the report has however been provided to management in the college.”
March 3, 2011: Chief Administration Officer John Leamy writes a letter to the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
On May 31, 2017, John Barrett refers to this letter at a meeting of the PAC and says it “is evidence of the fact that there was an awareness of these issues on that date at the apex of the organisation”.
March 4, 2011: Niall Kelly receives a note from the chief administrative officer headed ‘urgent’. Attached to the note was another note from the Garda Commissioner (the Garda Commissioner at this time was Martin Callinan) saying that a report should be given to Mr Kelly but this was not the McGee report. Instead, he meant a summarised version of the McGee report.
In this summarised report, Mr Kelly is assured by the Executive Director of Finance Michael Culhane that the financial controls in the Garda College have been streamlined and improved.
Mr Kelly, in turn, deletes the paragraphs (in italics above) from his final version of the Report to the Garda Commissioner in relation to Financial Controls in 2010.
Mr Kelly later tells PAC (on May 4, 2017) that his deleting of the paragraphs was a mistake. Asked if he felt duped, at the same PAC meeting, he says he did. He adds: “There was a culture of circling the wagons and I got caught trying to bang into the wagons.”
December 2011: Kenneth Ruane starts as the Head of Legal Affairs at An Garda Siochana.
2012: From 2012, Supt Pat McCabe is once again the Administrator of the Garda College Restaurant.
April 2013 – end of 2015: Cyril Dunne is the Chief Administrative Officer at An Garda Siochana.
Early 2014: OPW takes over full control of Dromard Farm.
2014: Repayments to the OPW, in respect of Dromard Farm, begin to be paid.
March 25, 2014: Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan steps down. Noirin O’Sullivan is appointed Garda Commissioner on an interim basis at this time. She’s later made Garda Commissioner on a permanent basis on November 25, 2014.
2014-2015: Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly tells a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on May 4, 2017:
I was asking questions in 2008 and 2009 but I was not getting answers. In March 2011, in relation to the 2010 accounts, I got assurances that issues were being addressed. What happened in 2011 was that effectively the college closed and there was very little activity. Between 2011 and 2014, if I had gone to audit I probably would not have found anything because effectively we were doing nothing. In 2014-2015 these issues started arising again. In 2016, we were brought in to do the audit.
October 3, 2014: John Barrett takes up his role as the first civilian Executive Director of Human Resources and People Management at An Garda Siochana – seven years after such a role was first recommended in the Hayes Report of 2007. For the previous 25 years, he worked for large multinationals.
November 2014: Fennelly interim report is published and, in it, it is recommended that Garda management should brief the Department of Justice as early as possible on matters which could impact the reputation and public standing of An Garda Siochana.
2014/2015: Garda College starts to receive new entrants again.
June 10, 2105: John Barrett explains to Inspector Margaret Howard and later Chief Anne Marie McMahon that the budgets for the Garda College were not in good order. He told them “the matter was very serious in terms of over spend” and that he would address the matter directly with the College Finance Staff the following day, June 11.
June 11, 2015: John Barrett meets the clerk of the Garda College, Sgt Ollie Nally and Carmel Lynagh. He has 14 questions he wants answered.
June 15, 2015: John Barrett attends a meeting at the office of the CAO. Others in attendance include Cyril Dunne, Michael Culhane, Alan Mulligan, and Sgt Siobhan Brown. Mr Barrett explains that the 2015 HR budget was in good order, except for the Garda College. Mr Barrett requests that Mr Culhane help him “get to the bottom of a number of things which were a cause of concern to me from my meeting with College Finance Staff the previous Thursday [June 11]”
June 17, 2015: Barrett raises his concerns about the Garda College at the staff meeting of the CAO. Of this meeting, Mr Barrett claims:
“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 Comptroller and Auditor General”.
At a meeting of the PAC on May 31, 2017, Mr Culhane says he did not say this.
Later that afternoon, on June 17, 2015, according to Mr Barrett, he gets a call from Barry McGee, now a senior accountant in the Finance Section of An Garda Siochana. Mr McGee tells Mr Barrett that he wanted to give him a copy of his 2008 report which he wrote shortly after he started working at AGS, having previously worked in the C&AG’s office.
Mr Barrett asked Mr McGee to print two copies and to give one to him and one to CAO Cyril Dunne.
June 18, 2015: Mr Barrett had a meeting via video with the CAO “and others in HQ” from the Templemore video room. After the meeting, Mr Barrett spoke to the CAO Cyril Dunne one on one. He expressed his “grave concerns” and Cyril Dunne “agreed that there was no place for shadow entities and invisible and off GL/Off Balance sheet operations”. Mr Barret also asked Mr Dunne if he had got the McGee report. Mr Dunne said he hadn’t see it yet. Mr Barrett said he’d make sure Mr Dunne got a copy.
In a later conversation with Mr McGee, Mr McGee confirmed to Mr Barrett that he would get a copy to Cyril Dunne and that he had not, at that point, already done so.
At around noon, Sgt Ollie Nally visited Mr Barrett in his office to tell him that the College Administrator Supt Pat McCabe, who had been in Dublin that morning, was coming to Templemore to discuss the issues with Mr Barrett.
Mr Barrett asked Sgt Nally if he had finished answering the 14 questions that he had prepared. Sgt Nally told Mr Barrett: “They [the finance section] are crunching numbers now”.
Mr Barrett asked Sgt Nally about the materials he had requested (activity dara, org charts, etc) and that he had been assured would be with him the following day (Friday). Sgt Nally told Mr Barrett that it was being worked on.
When Mr Barrett deliberately (to see his reaction) asked about the Restaurant and Shop, Sgt Nally said Supt McCabe would speak to him about that.
Supt McCabe visited Mr Barrett in his office that afternoon. Supt McCabe said to Mr Barrett: “Well you have been doing a bit of digging”. Mr Barrett claims: “Pat [Supt McCabe] behaved in a very uneasy manner which suggested to me that…he appeared surprised by the degree of detail I had from 2008 and the quantum of the investments.”
Mr Barrett also later recalled:
“He told me that the investments had fallen in value to about €600,000 and that there was a plan to use some of it to contribute to the refurbishment of the building…”
“I was disturbed by the body language and surprise shown by Pat McCabe in our 20 minutes together though that is explainable by the nature of the matters and irregularities which so obviously arise. I believe that there was a chance that he came to me wondering the extent of the matters I was aware of and when I quoted the details from the 2008 report (which he says he was never shown) he was more surprised and concerned. He expressed the view that a solution needed to be found to all of this and I agreed.”
Mr Barrett then telephones CAO Cyril Dunne to tell him about his meeting with Supt McCabe.
Mr Barrett says:
“For his part, Cyril said he had got the report [McGee report] but not as yet read it. He had, however, made some enquiries and he confirmed that there was a nasty smell of the answers he had been given so far. I undertook to Cyril to think some more on it over the weekend and to have a clearer view for him when he would return from vacation.”
June 19, 2015: Mr Barrett sends a text to Mr McGee confirming that he read his report and commended him for his work. Mr Barrett also asks Sgt Fiona Broderick if his letter to Sgt Nally, the clerk of the college, had been sent and she confirmed it had. This letter contained the 14 questions he had raised on June 11. Mr Barrett was told his letter was sent by email.
Mr Barrett receives a call from Chief Anne Marie McMahon about the financial data he had requested. She asks for a face-to-face meeting and tells Mr Barrett many of the documents he had requested “would require ‘reformatting’ and restatement and it was a big job to do this”.
Mr Barrett said he didn’t think this was the case but, if it turned out to be the case, he’d ask for help from the head of finance Michael Culhane.
June 22, 2015: Mr Barrett goes to the office of the Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane and asks him for his advice. Mr Ruane is not fully aware of Mr Barrett’s concerns, or of all the details of the McGee report, and advises “in the strongest possible terms to ensure that this matter was dealt with openly and transparently and that approach had to be the new orthodoxy in AGS, irrespective of who might seek to oppose it”.
June 23, 2015: Supt Pat McCabe calls Mr Barrett to tell Mr Barrett he had sent him a copy of Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan’s report from 2010 “on behalf of the Commissioner” who is Noirin O’Sullivan. Mr Barrett has not read AC Nolan’s report at this point but he tells Supt McCabe that he would do so.
According to Mr Barrett:
“Pat [McCabe] informed me that the position was known and understood at the level of the Commissioner, AGS Executive Staff, in the Department of Justice and Equality, DPER, the Department of the Taoiseach, etc. I was relieved.”
Later that day, Mr Barrett speaks with Barry McGee, in Finance, who tells Mr Barrett that he had been working on “a variety of documents and records of a contemporaneous nature” that showed “some of the most fundamental risks were ongoing and that no fundamental change had occurred in the arrangements whereby private and public money was commingled and administered on a profit basis by an entity outside the control of the statutory accounting officer and within my remit generally in the College.”
Mr Barrett asked Mr McGee to review the materials at hand.
Mr Barrett telephones Eugene Banks, of the Department of Justice. Some months previous, Mr Banks had called Mr Barrett about a question that had been put to the Minister for Justice by a Tipperary Fine Gael TD Noel Coonan, about the Templemore Golf Club. Mr Barrett was curious to know of the extent of Mr Banks’ knowledge of the matters concerned – in light of Supt McCabe having previously told him that the Department of Justice were aware.
Mr Barrett found Mr Banks to be forthright.
“He said that he was aware that at some point some funds from the College Restaurant had been used to fund the purchase of lands through a Ltd Company and that the Golf Club had leased the lands purchased from the guards and that now there was a dispute of some sort as rent due was not being paid. Noel Coonan TD had alerted the Minister to the dispute in the interests of there being no loss of access to his local constituents in Templemore.”
Mr Barrett asks Mr Banks for an estimate of the scale of money that he thought was involved and he estimated “six figures”.
June 24, 2015: Mr Barrett calls CAO Cyril Dunne – who sits on the Audit Committee of An Garda Siochana – while Mr Dunne was on a week’s holiday. They discuss the Garda College issues. Mr Barrett says: “Cyril expressed his determination, having reviewed for the first time a file which he had made available to him in his own office, to deal with the matters fully and completely”.
Mr Barrett tells Mr Dunne he was concerned about the length of time that these matters continued and that “it was apparently rearranged rather than truncated in 2009 when a report was done by AC Nolan for the then Commissioner and Accounting Officer.” Mr Barrett expressed confidence in Barry McGee.
That afternoon, Mr Barrett was speaking with Supt Matt Nyland after Supt Nyland offered to walk with Mr Barrett while he was going to meet Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney.
Mr Barrett says
“As we walked, we discussed the history of this matter and his previous advise to me that I, as Ex Director HR&PD, should not get involved in the resolution of these matters. I expressed my deeply held reservations about his approach and why I was clear that I could not and would not, close my eyes, as a civil servants, to this malpractice which I described as being unacceptable to the organisation and those staff members now in the middle of the maladministration.”
“Matt suggested that this was well known and that it was up to others in Finance etc to address this. I indicated to him that I was troubled by his suggested approach, though I understood the cultural warning, and concern for my personal wellbeing that might be inherent in his suggestion.”
June 25, 2015: John Barrett meets Superintendent Pat McCabe and they spend two hours going through the history of events. They also make a trip to Dromard Farm, the sports fields and the golf club.
Mr Barrett later recalls:
“Pat noted the degree of crossover between members of An Garda Siochana [AGS] and club members and their families. Pat pointed out that the club house was AGS property but that the golf club land was on lease from the OPW from 1999 for 99 years. There were difficulties with the lease to AGS, it had never been signed. In turn, the ‘leased’ lands were then licensed to the golf club for a licence fee, (there were no provisions for a sub-lease) which licence fee notionally agreed at €12,700 per annum and has not been paid for the past five years.”
“Pat points out that as far back as two-plus years ago there was a meeting to review these details and HOLA [head of legal affairs] was present. The Head of Legal Affairs quite properly advised that he could not deal with the business of [sic] no AGS entities were involved. Mr Ruane recommended that the directors/administrators of the entities seek independent advice. A firm of solicitors, O’Connor & Co, in Merrion Row, have been retained and notice to quit has been served on the golf club some time ago.”
“In 1999, a sum of IR85,000 was agreed by AGS Restaurant as the fee to be paid to the OPW for the lease of some 27 acres for 99 years. It has since emerged that the lease was never signed and the provenance of the bank draft use to pay this sum to the OPW is unknown.”
Supt McCabe tells Mr Barrett that the Sportsfield Company Ltd used proceeds from the Restaurant Account to buy two adjoining pieces of land to the lands ‘leased’ and they now form part of the golf course. These acquisitions were enjoined into the folio of the OPW.
In addition, Supt McCabe tells Mr Barrett that the car park, tennis courts and club house adjoining the land where the golf course is, is owned by the AGS. Money from the Restaurant Account was used to develop and support the tennis courts and club house.
Supt McCabe tells Mr Barrett that, a couple of years ago, he decided to stop paying for the bar licence in the club house.
Following this, Mr Barrett is unsure how utility charges and operational costs associated with the club house are paid – given none of the licence fees due have been paid for over five years.
Supt McCabe tells Mr Barrett the key decision makers in relate to the Restaurant over the years were himself (Pat McCabe), Eoin O’Donnell, and Mick O’Riordan.
Mr Barrett asks Supt McCabe about the reaction to the McGee report and Supt McCabe tells Mr Barrett that the “the 2009 review by Jack Nolan for the Commissioner was certainly discussed at the highest levels and certainly at the Commissioner’s Staff.”
Supt McCabe said that, on foot of the reports, while some bank accounts were closed and the laundry operation was shut down, “the core operation of commingling of public and ‘private’ funds through a private entity continued and continued to generate profits.”
At peak, the operation accumulated cash and near cash assets of some €2,300,000.
Supt McCabe told Mr Barrett that, by 2008, the value of investments was worth about €1,385,000 and, at the time of their meeting on June 25, 2015, it was estimated to be at around €600,000.
Mr Barrett states that, following the Nolan review of 2010, head of finance Michael Culhane communicated that certain investments had be wound down and money was spent on college projects. Mr Culhane wasn’t presented with books of account nor was he made a signatory or even notice party on any of the investment accounts.
After Mr Barrett expressed his concern about the need to examine the processes and decision making involved, Supt McCabe said to him: “It never look right and it never was right.”
Mr Barrett told Supt McCabe about how Chief Anne Marie McMahon had said his requests for certain information would require a lot of work. Supt McCabe said he would get Sgt Ollie Nally to send Mr Barrett everything her had to hand.
June 26, 2015: In the morning, Mr Barrett sends an email to Barry McGee about what he felt were the various risks at play in the Garda College and asks Mr McGee for his thoughts.
In the afternoon, Mr Barrett meets Mr McGee in Mr Barrett’s office. Mr McGee shows Mr Barrett that funds were back flowing through the privately operated restaurant and profits of more than €200,000 were generated in the past 12 months.
Mr Barrett told Mr Barry about his meeting with Supt McCabe and how Supt McCabe assured Mr Barrett that “there was a high degree of awareness of the matters at issue”.
Mr McGee, who used to work in the C&AG office, told Mr Barrett that the C&AG would be very concerned about the “extent and duration of this arrangement and that to his knowledge it had never been made known to the internal audit function deliberately and as a matter of decision rather than oversight.”
In addition, Mr Barrett later recalls: “We both felt that by not having the CFO [chief financial officer] and the Accounting Officer [Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan] formally in the loop, though both were aware, then the remedial actions taken in the aftermath of the [Nolan] report appear partial.”
June 29, 2015: Mr Barrett has a telephone conversation with Chief Superintendent Anne-Marie McMahon. During this, Mr Barrett explains that he did not want his request for financial information to be delayed until after their meeting, as was her suggestion. Mr Barrett said the questions asked to link spending to activity were “basic and simple accounting”.
Mr Barret also raises his concerns about matters involving governance, management and control in the college in respect of the Restaurant, Shop, Sportsfield Company, the comingling of public and private funds through the activities of a private entity. He tells Chief Supt McMahon that Supt McCabe had been very helpful in giving him background details.
Mr Barrett and Chief Supt Anne Marie McMahon agree to meet on July 2.
On the same day, June 29, Mr Barrett calls to the office of the Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane and asks him for advice about the matters he learned from Supt McCabe – namely about the unsigned lease, the missing bank draft, the golf club, etc.
Mr Barrett says Mr Ruane “reiterated his view that this matter needed to be brought into the light of day and he advised that the fullest rigours of transparency should be considered necessary”.
June 30, 2015: Mr Barrett meets the CFO Michael Culhane and Barry McGee at Mr Barrett’s office to discus Mr Barrett’s concerns related to the day-to-day management and control of costs in relation to the Garda College and to tell them of the actions he had taken to investigate the matters, including his meeting and tour with Supt McCabe.
Mr Barrett mentions how Supt McCabe said there must be a broad level of awareness in both the Commissioner’s office and, to some degree, that of the Department of Justice.
Mr Culhane says it would be difficult for the Audit Committee to not be involved in helping them review the matters. This was after Mr Barrett asked how it was possible that the Audit Committee had not been involved previously.
Mr Barrett says he feels Niall Kelly and Ken Ruane need to be involved in the resolution process, and he is happy with how Mr Culhane and Mr McGee “engaged with the quest for resolution”.
Mr Barrett tells them that he will be meeting the Chief Administration Officer Cyril Dunne later that day and that he will update them on this meeting afterwards.
At 4.30pm, Mr Barrett meets Mr Dunne at Mr Dunne’s office. Mr Barrett asks if the matter warrants a Section 41 referral to the Minister for Justice.
Mr Barrett later recalls:
“My logic was that this matter did (in my judgement) fit that definition as it is of a material scale and has a substantial political dimension to it likely to effect public confidence, locally and nationally, most especially in the run up to a general election.”
But, Mr Barrett says
“Cyril said that while he was not ruling that out, he did not think that the time was right now for a S41 [Section 41].”
During his meeting with Mr Dunne, Eugene Banks, from the Department of Justice rings. Mr Barrett and Mr Dunne speak to Mr Banks on speaker phone.
Mr Banks says the Minister for Justice had received a letter from Independent TD Michael Lowry about the Templemore Golf Club and “efforts by AGS to have the golf club removed fro the non-payment of rent”. Mr Barret is told Mr Lowry would be seeking a comprehensive update on this matter in a few days.
After the phone call, Mr Dunne says the Garda College matters were likely to “become public”.
Mr Barrett recalls:
“I agreed with that analysis and asked to ensure that the #1 [Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan] was fully aware. Cyril said he had spoken to her and that the Commissioner was aware.“
“Cyril proposed the idea of the establishment of a steering group to oversee all aspects of the necessary review of the affairs of the college and he proposed Michael, myself and himself as central figures…”
Also on June 30…
Garda’s HOLA Ken Ruane tells PAC, on May 31, 2017, that he met head of human resources John Barrett on June 30, 2015, at 4.35pm, and was told by Mr Barrett that issues relating to the college had been reported to the Garda’s chief administration officer Cyril Dunne and that Mr Dunne had told him he had passed them on to the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan.
July 1, 2015: Mr Barrett learns that both Cyril Dunne and Michael Culhane will be in the Garda College the following morning to address the issues with Chief Superintendent Anne-Marie McMahon.
Mr Barrett calls Mr Dunne and asks him if he had told Chief Supt McMahon of the planned change of agenda and Ms Culhane said “no, he did not feel the need to do so”.
July 2, 2015: Cyril Dunne and Michael Culhane meet Mr Barrett in his office at 9.30am, ahead of their meeting with Chief Supt McMahon. Before the three men meet, Mr Barrett phones Chief Supt McMahon and he tells her that Mr Dunne and Mr Culhane will be joining their 10.30am meeting.
Mr Barrett later recalls:
“The Chief expressed her surprise and asked why and I explained that the financial and administrative matters we had reviewed in the course of our last conversation on the morning of Monday June 29th were extremely serious and had substantial risk for the entire organisation.
“Chief McMahon became upset and I assured her that this was not a with hunt of any sort. This was all about dealing with the realities as we found them…This, I explained, exposed the Commissioner and the organisation to all sorts of potential risks.”
Superintendant Nolan also attends this meeting.
Mr Barrett later recalls:
“The Chief pointed out that the Restaurant Manager did a very good job, provided a good service, was very flexible and was cost conscious. The profits made by the restaurant were invested and the Superintendent and the Restaurant Manager managed the relationship between them.
“These surpluses were dipped into when the student numbers were low and other parts of the surplus were used to make investment in the college, buying equipment and other key investments to help update the facilities.
“The Chief pointed out that some two years ago there had been a meeting to discuss the Sportsfield Company Ltd and at the meeting were Ken Ruane HOLA and Michael Culhane and Assistant Commissioner Fanning did not attend. The advise given at that time by the CFO was to liquidate the investments and this was followed.”
“Cyril said that he was only interested in the structure so that he could advise the Accounting Officer [Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan] and maybe down the road the PAC…”
“Chief McMahon pointed out that there was surplus money here and that it was practice to invest this in the college. Cyril responded that he would have assumed that the Garda Vote would have paid the bills in the college as they do in all other parts of the organisation.”
“At this point Cyril Dunne expressed his discomfort with Superintendent Nolan and I taking notes of the discussion and I immediately agreed to cease.”
Mr Barrett says the meeting finished just before 12 noon, for lunch, and reconvened afterwards. It is then they agreed to “go forward and form a steering committee to oversee the full and thorough review of the matters arising.”
In addition, Mr Dunne invites Chief McMahon to be part of the steering committee, while a view is taken by Mr Dunne that Niall Kelly should not be engaged in the work of the steering group.
Chief McMahon says she does not have a copy of the McGee report. In turn, Mr Barrett has a copy made and gives it to her.
She also asks Mr Dunne if the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan is aware of the issues and he assures her that he had spoken to her and they would do so again after their meeting.
Chief McMahon also gives Mr Barrett some papers pertaining to the 14 questions he had previously raised with her about the Garda College in relation to overtime, travel and subsistence.
Mr Dunne asks Mr Barrett to put together a summary of the issues, as outlined in the 2008 McGee and 2010 Nolan reports “for onward transmission to the Audit Committee of An Garda Siochana for their July meeting”.
Later, at a meeting of the PAC, on May 31, 2017, Mr Barrett says of this meeting:
“It [this meeting] 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.”
Asked by Labour TD Alan Kelly, at the same PAC meeting on May 31, 2017, if Mr Culhane has a differing view of the meeting, Mr Culhane says: “No.”
July 3, 2015: John Barrett speaks to Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan on the telephone and tells him that his report of 2010 was discussed at the meeting of the previous day.
Mr Barrett later recalls:
“AC Nolan said that he never saw his report as closing the matters and that I should be aware that he was especially concerned about the decision to close the laundry account by simply diverting the funding into the Restaurant operation.
“He expressed the view that it was bizarre that laundry facilities provided by the State to students were then charged for and those funds were then assumed into the laundry account.
“AC Jack Nolan also alerted me to the fact that monies collected from the rental of the lands on the outside farm were collected from the farmer who rented the lands and these funds too were lodged (as far as he knew) to the restaurant account.”
July 6, 2015: Mr Barrett delivers his report on the McGee and Nolan reports to Cyril Dunne, as requested. This report is a ten-slide Power Point deck entitled Summary of Issues Arising from the Reports and Discussions Held at the Garda College on Thursday, July 2, 2015.
In a letter with the report, Mr Barrett states:
“I fully support your proposal to move quickly and to form a steering group to oversee the detailed program of work needed to address the practices and to enquire fully into all the matters arising…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.”
The ten-slide deck includes an email from Barry McGee to Mr Barrett, on June 25, 2015, in which Mr McGee says:
“I think the problem in approaching the solving of this, is that because of the potential negative repetitional risk for the organisation – in that once this starts to be sorted it hits the public media, either through audit, etc, it could have very big ramifications – like the accounting officer [Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan] appearing before the PAC, etc – so it is how to solve this quietly without risking exposure – again this is just my opinion – so this report was quiet sensitive – Michael [Culhane] has said if you wish to meet to discuss this etc might be useful – it is not necessarily a nice report…”
Readers should note Mr Barrett’s report is not given to the audit committee, nor is the audit committee briefed of the matters at its next meeting on July 15, 2015.
Mr Dunne later tells the head of internal audit Niall Kelly that he didn’t bring Mr Barrett’s report to the attention of GIAS and the audit committee in July 2015, as he wanted to check the issues and gather more information.
That afternoon, Mr Barrett meets the head of legal affairs Ken Ruane at Mr Ruane’s office, to update him on developments since their last discussion.
July 8, 2015: In a letter to Cyril Dunne, Mr Barrett writes:
“I am very concerned about ensuring that all relevant matters are made known to all the relevant parties as soon as possible. I have left the briefing of the Commissioner in your capable hands and I was delighted you had briefed her in advance of our meeting of Thursday last.”
July 27, 2015: Niall Kelly tells PAC, on May 31, 2017, that, on July 27, 2015, there was a meeting of all managers – from chief superintendent, head of section or principal officer grade upwards – in Templemore on the AGS’s modernisation and renewal programme.
During a break of this meeting, according to Mr Kelly, Ken Ruane, head of legal affairs, asked him how the discussion about the Garda College at the audit committee meeting of the previous week, July 15, 2015, had gone.
Mr Kelly told Mr Ruane that no such discussion took place. Mr Ruane then told Mr Kelly there were serious issues in the Garda College that he should be aware of and that John Barrett had prepared a document for the CAO Cyril Dunne to brief the audit committee.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan tells PAC (May 4, 2017) “the first I became aware of the issue was on 27 July ”.
This was in reference to a meeting at the Garda College which was attended by John Barrett, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, Chief Administrative Officer Cyril Dunne, Deputy Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin and Assistant Commissioner John Twomey.
Niall Kelly was not invited to this meeting and was not informed of its outcome.
Ms O’Sullivan later tells PAC, on May 4, 2017: “There was a very brief conversation in a room after a meeting in Templemore at which Mr Barrett had raised certain issues, specifically to do with some work he was doing, when I was present with the two deputy commissioners and the chief administrative officer.”
Ms O’Sullivan said the meeting was “very brief” and “my memory is that after a long meeting in the Garda College, accompanied by the chief administrative officer and two deputy commissioners, I was in the reception room having tea. Mr Barrett arrived into the room and spoke about the issues raised…”
At the same PAC meeting, Donal O’Cualain could not recall the length of the meeting.
And, again at the same PAC meeting, John Barrett says: “The meeting lasted two hours.”
In addition, at the same PAC meeting, when Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald asks Noirin O’Sullivan what explanation Cyril Dunne gave, at this July 27 meeting, for not briefing the audit committee of John Barrett’s concerns, Ms O’Sullivan said: “He did not give any explanation because there was to be a group to be established…”
When Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane, at the same PAC meeting of May 4, 2017, asked the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan why repayments to the OPW began in 2014 – when nobody apparently knew of any irregularities before July 2015, Ms O’Sullivan referred to the current Chief Administration Officer Joseph Nugent to answer.
Mr Nugent told PAC: “I think we need to get more information on this. We will come back on this issue.”
Ms O’Sullivan also later tells PAC, on May 4, 2017, that she was not advised to inform the Minister for Justice of the concerns related to the Garda College, under Section 41 of the Garda Siochana Act 2005. But she was advised that the matters may warrant a report under Section 41.
Ms O’Sullivan told PAC: “I felt at the time that we did not have sufficient information. We put together an immediate group, comprising representatives of the Department of Justice and Equality, to get to the bottom of the matter.”
At the July 27, 2015 meeting, John Barrett learns that the July 6, 2015 report he prepared in response to a request from Cyril Dunne – and intended for circulation to Michael Howard and the audit committee – was “withheld from” Mr Howard.
Later, in a letter Mr Barrett writes to Cyril Dunne, Mr Barrett recalls the July 27 meeting. He notes:
“The meeting at the Garda College of Monday July 27th was important in very many respects. You will recall that it took place after the briefing on ‘Transformation’ on the ground floor of the library building and I was invited to the follow on session by Acting Deputy SCM. He and I walked across to the Reception Room with him. He told me that the Commissioner wanted to have a meeting about the letter from Ken Ruane, which he had got on Friday evening, July 24th.
…The five of us at the meeting then considered in some detail the letter of Friday, July 24th sent by HOLA [Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane] to the Acting Deputy SCM. Ken Ruane’s letter also enclosed a copy of the Barry McGee report from March 2008.
Early in the meeting, I made clear that I was the source of the briefing of HOLA upon which his opinion was based. I explained my very real concerns around the contents of the McGee report when I saw it first. I said that I became even more concerned as I raised questions after reading it.
I explained that I had met with Ken Ruane and sought his advice and input on a number of occasions and I had met with Michael Culhane and Barry McGee on June 30th.
I felt a real tension in the room around my acknowledging that I was the concerned party behind the letter of advice from HOLA. I made it clear that as soon as I had read the 2008 report, I had called Mr Barry McGee and asked him to furnish you (CAO) with a copy of the 2008 report directly to your office.
…I also pointed out that Michael Culhane and I agreed that we needed to get accounting skills into the college quickly and that when I ask the CFO [chief financial officer] about asking IA [internal audit] to do the work, the CFO said that IA may not have the ability/and scope to do the work.
At the meeting in the college I made specific reference to my concerns around the scale of the commingled monies involved, (€12m over ten years), the practices in the restaurant, laundry and Shop (some of which had now ceased), the existence of a total sum of the order €2.3m euros in various investment accounts at peak, (but estimated to be some €600,000 as at the date of the meeting and no clarity around the historic disbursements of monies other than lands were purchased at some stage and €222,000 was expended on staff redundancies c2010).
…I received considerable push back when I referred to the loss of all books of account prior to a date which coincided with the retirement of a restaurant manager . I was counselled by all others in attendance that ‘I needed to be very careful’ in making such unproven assertions and connections.
I agreed and withdrew the remark noting the perspective of the meeting. The Commissioner perused the McGee document and concluded that ‘there was no evidence of misappropriation’.
I countered and raised my concern that the structural arrangements complained of in 2008 are still currently operating, and that material funds from the vote were not accounted for in the accounting process and continue to be managed and controlled outside the view of the CFO and the responsibility of the accounting officer.
…The meeting debated the degree to which the Department [of Justice] were aware that I referenced a point made to me by Michael Culhane at a meeting on July 2nd that the department were aware of the profit making potential of the college operations and were supportive if such profits were used for investment in college facilities.
...I expressed by concern about no information having been shared with the office of the Internal Auditor in 2008, 2010 or now and I was told that Mr Niall Kelly was involved in the College. I was told that I was wrong about Mr Kelly being unaware of the issues.
AC [Assistant Commissioner] John Twomey and the Commissioner recalled that the IA [internal audit] team were in the College to do their work. I said that I had been told that they were not but that I would investigate further.
There was a reticence among the Commissioner and the acting deputies to accept the conclusions of Barry McGee’s report and the additional materials added by the CAO and I. The meeting was of the view that there was no evidence of wrong doing on the part of individuals.
With specific reference to my remark concerning the disappearance of the books of account, quoted in the McGee report, I was warned again to ‘be very careful’. The action was given to the CAO to move forward with the work of the ‘working group’ and for that such work should progress before any thought of a S41 [a section of the Garda Siochana Act which puts certain obligations on the Garda Commissioner to report matters to the Minister for Justice and Equality] could be considered fully, thus rejecting the letter from HOLA.
Our meeting that night, which ran for well over two hours, left me somewhat perplexed. My note says that I left the meeting at 19.37 that evening and I left the four of you, (the Commissioner, AC Twomey, AC O’Cullaine and yourself [Cyril Dunne]) in the reception room in continuing discussion.
Mr Barrett sends these notes of the meeting in registered post to himself and also sent it it in a sealed envelope to Ken Ruane, head of legal affairs.
Later, at a meeting of the PAC on May 31, 2017, Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said it appeared the sending of the minutes or notes of the meeting, by registered post to himself, was “a self-protection mechanism“.
Mr Barrett replies:
“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.”
July 28, 2015: Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan told PAC (on May 4, 2017) that on July 28, 2015, Deputy Commissioner Donal O’Cualain prepared a report based on a report by Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane and “we immediately put together a group comprising representatives of the Department of Justice and Equality to look at the issues”.
August 6, 2015: Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane told a meeting of PAC on May 31, 2017, that at a meeting also attended by Michael Culhane, Mr Ruane indicated that “certain issues may have needed to be referred for external advice to the Attorney General’s office…Mr Culhane was concerned that I was seeking external advice, or that I was even proposing to seek external advice...”
This was in relation to Garda College lands and the legal status of employees in the restaurant.
In addition, in relation to this meeting of August 6, Cyril Dunne later asks Mr Ruane to change his minutes of the meeting. Mr Dunne wrote to Mr Ruane, saying:
Thank you for the attached. Before I review, I ought to share my initial reaction which is that the draft goes to an inappropriate level of detail.
Mr Ruane did change the minutes but kept a note of his original minutes and told Mr Dunne this at their next meeting.
August 31, 2015: Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane sent a letter seeking legal advice from the Attorney General and, the following day, this was copied to the Department of Justice.
Anne Barry, of the Department of Justice and who took over from Eugene Banks in September 2015, tells PAC, on May 31, 2017, that when the department received the copy of Mr Ruane’s request for legal advices, it became aware of issues at the Garda College.
Ms Barry subsequently wrote to the Chief Administrative Officer Cyril Dunne on October 6, 2015. She also told PAC that the department didn’t notify the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald until September 16, 2016.
September 30, 2015: John Barrett’s report, which he compiled for the then CAO Cyril Dunne, in July 2015, and which he expected would be passed on to the audit committee – but wasn’t – is raised under Any Other Business at a meeting of the audit committee.
Mr Barrett’s report is not distributed among the committee members.
As head of external audit, Michael Howard is chairman of this audit committee at this time.
Mr Howard later recalls this audit committee meeting at a meeting of the PAC on May 31, 2017, saying:
“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.”
“…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.
This differs greatly to what Deputy Commission Donal O’Cualain told PAC on May 4, 2017. Mr O’Cualain said: “The report was not circulated. That is correct, but a detailed oral account was given [by Cyril Dunne].”
Mr O’Cualain also told PAC that he was basing his understanding that there was “extensive discussion” off the minutes of the meeting. He wasn’t at that meeting himself.
October 2015: Dónall Ó Cualáin becomes the Chief Administration Officer at the Garda College. He tells the PAC on June 14, 2017: “At that point, the advice was that the legal advice had to be sought and obtained before Mr [Niall] Kelly could commence his work [audit], all the bank accounts had to be closed, and all the moneys and investments had to be brought into one account. All that work was ongoing.”
It’s understood this advice was not from Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane but from Cyril Dunne.
October 24, 2015: Executive director of finance Michael Culhane writes to the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, and Deputy Commissioners John Twomey and Dónall Ó Cualáin, saying John Barrett had collected confidential information and sent it to his home address without consent.
Mr Culhane said this was a breach of the Official Secrets Act and he urged Ms O’Sullivan to investigate Mr Barrett’s actions.
Later, at a meeting of the PAC on May 31, 2017, Mr Culhane admits:
“I suppose with the benefit of hindsight, it probably was not wise to make that statement.”
At the same PAC meeting, John Barrett said he requested that letter several times, personally and through his solicitor. He wrote to the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan three times. He eventually received it, under FOI, but 85% of it was redacted. He learned of the letter a year after it was written.
In the same letter to Ms O’Sullivan, Mr Culhane wrote:
“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”.
He also accused Mr Barrett of “attempting to undermine my professional reputation”.
When asked about this letter at a meeting of the PAC on May 31, 2017, Mr Culhane said:
“I had no idea what he was going to do with the information which had been collected. It was a general statement….I was concerned that there might be some leakage to the press…”
At the same PAC meeting on May 31, 2017, when Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane asks John Barrett if he believes the letter was an attempt to undermine his work, Mr Barrett says: “Absolutely.”
October 2015: John O’Callaghan, of the Department of Justice, tells PAC (on May 4, 2017) that the Department of Justice was not aware of any financial irregularities in the Garda College until October 2015.
Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan told PAC (on May 4, 2017) “it is clear that the Department [of Justice] had knowledge going back to 1988, though I am not sure of the exact date. There were indications, prior to the Commissioner becoming Accounting Officer, that the Department had an involvement in the structure put in place for a funding model for the Garda College.”
October 21 2015: It’s reported that Cyril Dunne is to leave his €160,000-a-year job as Chief Administration Officer at An Garda Siochana at the end of the year, to take up a new role at CIE.
March 29, 2016: Deputy commissioner for strategy and change management Donal O Cualain requests the head of internal audit Niall Kelly to carry out an examination of the matters pertaining to the Garda College.
May 31, 2016: The office of the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy is made aware, for the first time, of concerns regarding finances at the Garda College by head of internal audit Niall Kelly. Mr Kelly tells C&AG that he will be carrying out an internal audit of the college’s affairs. [Seamus McCarthy says this to PAC on May 4]
When asked by Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy why it took so long for the C&AG to be notified, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan said:
“Work was ongoing to establish the facts of the whole situation in order that a report could be compiled to set out what had gone on all the way back to 2006 when the initial report was made that Mr Kelly had identified. As soon as the internal audit work was ongoing, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office was informed.”
June 2, 2016: John Barrett has a meeting with Michael Howard, the head of external audit, after Mr Howard received Mr Barrett’s report from July 6, 2015. Mr Howard received the report from Niall Kelly. According to Mr Barrett, he and Mr Howard spoke for about two and a half hours, Mr Howard was shocked by what Mr Barrett found and Mr Howard said he would like to have a several more discussions with Mr Barrett about the matters raised.
But, as of May 4, 2017, Mr Barrett never heard from Mr Howard again.
June 9, 2016: An Garda Siochana launches its Modernisation and Renewal Programme, in which it calls for a review of the culture within An Garda Siochana.
June 16, 2016: The head of external audit Michael Howard meets the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan. Mr Howard later tells Niall Kelly that he met Ms O’Sullivan. In turn, Mr Kelly tells Mr Barrett of Mr Howard’s meeting with Ms O’Sullivan.
Mr Howard later tells the PAC, on May 31, 2017:
“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.”
“...I was warning her that, as the Accounting Officer, she was exposed.“
June 22, 2016: The head of internal audit Niall Kelly starts his internal audit into the finances of the Garda College.
August 29, 2016: According to the C&AG, Niall Kelly’s office informs the C&AG that an interim report has been drafted and that significant issues had been identified that required further investigation.
At this point the C&AG Seamus McCarthy had not seen the report. He asked the Garda College’s Accounting Officer, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, to amend the 2015 statement on internal financial control to disclose the non-compliance with corporate governance standards.
September 2016: Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan receives Niall Kelly’s draft interim report. Ms O’Sullivan later tells PAC (on May 4, 2017) that she first informed the Minister for Justice about the concerns related to the Garda College “around September 2016”, when the draft interim audit report was completed.
September 6, 2016: Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly gives a draft of his Garda College report to the Garda executive committee and they accept it. It says it can give no assurances in relation to the financial controls in the Garda College and makes 19 recommendations.
September 13, 2016: C&AG office receives a copy of the interim report’s executive summary.
September 16, 2016: The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is made aware of Niall Kelly’s draft interim report into the Garda College by Department of Justice officials.
October 12, 2016: In response to receiving a copy of Mr Kelly’s interim audit report, John Barrett writes a letter to Mr Kelly in which he cites concerns about information being deliberately and systematically being kept outside the purview of the statutory auditors.
Mr Barrett writes:
“I am very concerned to ensure that the values, attitudes and beliefs which surrounded this abuse of the public purse and the inaction and complicity of those whose task it was to protect it, can never be allowed happen again.”
“I am deeply concerned about the consistency which sees revenues generated from numerous on-campus activities came to be banked in more than 40 unauthorised bank accounts and how in each and every case the bulk of the costs associated with those same activities came to be charged to the vote and the public purse.”
“Most critically this process was understood over many years by those in roles charged with probity and the entire edifice seems to have stood protected from enquiry while remaining in plain view.”
“I am particularly concerned about how this matter was deliberately and systematically kept outside the purview of the Statutory Audit Committee? How it came to pass that reports specifically prepared on the financial arrangements in the Garda College were not shared with either you or the audit committee?
“The open and essential question is how the annual returns made to the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Finance, signed by the Accounting Officer [Garda Commissioner] over all the years since the 2005 Act, made no reference to millions of euro held in these unauthorised accounts (private banking, brokerage accounts, retail banking and credit unions) at a time when large supplementary estimates were routinely requested from Government.”
“These questions raise uncomfortable concerns about the historic management processes which were deemed acceptable and how they came to operate and continue up to the current date.”
Mr Barrett also raises concerns that “almost 16 months has gone by and we are just now at the point of considering finalising a response to an interim audit report which you and your staff were obliged to rush to a conclusion”.
“In that 16 months I contend that despite an amount of carefully constructed internal discussion, almost no meaningful external assistance has been brought to bear on the complex web of matters arising. I am troubled too by the suggestion made at the last meeting of the so called steering group that the acceptable or rejection of the recommendations made in your report could or should be varied at the discretion of the Commissioner and the executive.”
And he states:
“Given the longevity of the arrangements and the efforts to keep you and your office at bay, referenced in numerous emails and at meetings I attended, I am clear in my view that many of those most closely associated with this state of affairs were keenly aware that arrangements were in place which ran counter to process, government accounting regulations and legislation.”
“…the issues should not be addressed by those whose actions or inactions in any way contributed to the circumstances which gave rise to the problematic matters highlighted by your interim audit report.”
“…It is clear from the short snap shot of the administrative history of the Garda College, which your report explores, that this accountability chain simply has not worked over many years. It is clear that its failure was not a function of omission, but rather calculated occlusion.”
“For me, the cultural investigation is crucial. It is crucial because, as my old boss at Stratus Computer in Boston, John Young, used to say, ‘John there is never just one cockroach’. We need to examine the decision and approval sequences as to why such a web and sequence of practices was allowed to continue even as staff at the Garda College trained new Garda members in a value system that seemingly did not apply to them.”
October 13, 2016: Executive director of finance Michael Culhane writes a letter to head of internal audit Niall Kelly saying his interim draft report was “unprofessional, misleading and mischievous”. He also accuses Mr Kelly of making defamatory comments and threatened legal proceedings against him if he did not change his report.
Later, at a meeting of the PAC on May 31, 2017, Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane asks Mr Kelly if he believes Mr Culhane’s letter was an attempt to get him to water down the content of his report. Mr Kelly said: “Yes.”
January 22, 2017: John Mooney, in The Sunday Times, reports on Niall Kelly’s interim report into the Garda College and reports how it exposes serious financial irregularities at the college.
January 23, 2017: Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan does an interview on RTE’s Today With Sean O’Rourke and says the problems highlighted in the report are “legacy issues”.
February 20, 2017: In a letter to Niall Kelly, Michael Culhane writes: “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.”
February 2017: Chief Supt Anne Marie McMahon makes a retrospective declaration regarding SIPO.
February 2017: The final Interim Audit Report is published. It audits expenditure worth €112million from January 1, 2009 to March 31, 2016. Of the €112m, 80%, or €90m, related to salary costs while the other 20%, or €22m, related to non-pay costs.
The €112m spent is broken down as follows:
€24,107,308 in 2009
€15,978,581 in 2010
€13,956,632 in 2011
€12,045,833 in 2012
€11,853,859 in 2013
€12,358,858 in 2014
€18,158,143 in 2015
€4,150,346 in 2016
It isn’t possible for the audit to look at records before 2002 as records are not available. It looks at two periods. The first is January 1, 2009 to March 31, 2016, a period which records are legally required to be kept. The second period is 2002 – 2008 where records on relevant issues were found.
During the audit, 48 separate bank accounts relating to the college are identified.
In his main findings, Mr Kelly writes:
“In April 2008, a report was completed by the Finance Directorate that identified many of the issues of concern also highlighted in this audit and recommended remedial action. The college management responded in March 2010 rejecting many of the recommendations of the Finance Directorate’s Report. Some of the issues were address [sic] by college management however the structural issues in the college governance were not addressed and over the years some of the improvement in financial controls have now been reversed.“
“The issue as to whether a report should be made to the minister per section 41 of the Garda Siochana Act 2005 is essentially a legal issue that GIAS is not competent to advise on. GIAS would however advise that the issues identified in this report are serious and present considerable risk to the organisation and should be dealt with in an open and transparent manner.”
Mr Kelly says “all bank accounts under the control of the college management should be closed with the exception of the College Imprest Account….”
“The Garda College Sportsfield Co Ltd should be wound up. An accounting firm should be contracted from the Office of Government Procurement panel of firms to undertake this work. All assets including all associated assets such as the Sportsfield land and golf course land should be taken into State control. All bank accounts and investment accounts linked with the college should be closed and the balances surrendered to the Central Fund.”
“All land and buildings should be transferred to the control of the Office of Public Works (OPW).
“The rents collected €124,903 for the rental of Dromad Farm for years 2009 to 2013 should be transferred to OPW who are the legal owners of the land. This should be paid from the Garda Vote.”
“Garda staff who were directors of Garda College Sportsfield Co Ltd should take immediate steps to correct the public record and retrospectively make declarations under the Ethic in Public Office, Standards in Public Office Legislation. Garda HRM should remind these staff of their legal obligations and provide appropriate legal advice to help them retrospectively report to the Standard in Public Office Commission.
“The €15,964 collected in interest payments received from placing money related to European Funded projects and CEPOL funding in deposit accounts should be returned to the European Commission if it has not already been deducted from claims.”
March 22, 2017: The office of the C&AG receives Niall Kelly’s interim report and plans to publish its own report on the matter in September 2017.
April 30, 2017: Michael Howard’s position as chair of the audit committee ends. He held the position for three years, from April 2014.
May 4, 2017: Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan appears before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – along with Kenneth Ruane, head of legal affairs; John Barrett, executive director of human resources and people development; Joseph Nugent, chief administrative officer, Deputy Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin, with responsibility for governance and strategy; Niall Kelly, head of internal audit and; Michael Culhane, executive director of finance and services.
From the Department of Justice and Equality, PAC was joined by John O’Callaghan, assistant secretary of the policing division; Anne Barry and Paul McDonald, and from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform John Burke.
They are appearing before PAC to field questions about Niall Kelly’s internal audit report into the Garda College. At this point, Ms O’Sullivan has appointed Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll to examine Mr Kelly’s report and PAC is told Mr O’Driscoll’s report should be completed before the end of June 2017.
Ms O’Sullivan tells PAC:
“As Accounting Officer, I take my statutory responsibility for how An Garda Síochána spends taxpayer’s money very seriously. It is vital that it be spent efficiently and effectively and in the best interests of the people, the State and An Garda Síochána.”
Ms O’Sullivan also, at first, tells PAC that she first officially learned of the matters concerning the Garda College on July 30, 2015.
When Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane asks Ms O’Sullivan why the 2008 report by the finance directorate Barry McGee was not given to the Garda Internal Audit Section (GIAS), Ms O’Sullivan says:
“The investigation that Mr. Kelly is conducting as part of the internal audit is continuing. We are endeavouring to identify the whole chain of correspondence and the decision making around that…It is not clear from the correspondence that we have available to us. I can get Mr. Kelly or Mr. Culhane to elaborate, or indeed, the chief administrative officer, who has reviewed all of the papers, but it is my understanding that it is not evident from the material available who made that decision…”
In relation to the same matter, Mr Kelly tells PAC:
“There is documentation in place that states that the 2008 report went to the Commissioner [Fachtna Murphy]. There is correspondence from the Commissioner to the chief administrative officer instructing the officer to do certain things, including to give the report to internal audit and to the Comptroller and Auditor General.”
But Mr Kelly said he did not find any evidence to suggest these things happened.
Also in respect of the Garda College, Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy asks Noirin O’Sullivan: “Are there consequences for anyone?”
Ms O’Sullivan replies:
“Again, when the audit report is completed we will look back and see. We are talking about structures that were put in place in the 1980s.”
When Ms Murphy asks Ms O’Sullivan why it took almost 10 months for the C&AG to be informed after the concerns were first raised with the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan in July 27, 2015, Ms O’Sullivan said:
“Work was ongoing to establish the facts of the whole situation in order that a report could be compiled to set out what had gone on all the way back to 2006 when the initial report was made that Mr. Kelly had identified. As soon as the internal audit work was ongoing, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office was informed.”
Ms Murphy also asks about the Garda Boat Club and if it is subjected to an internal audit.
Niall Kelly told Ms Murphy: “The boat club is completely separate to An Garda Síochána. We do not have a remit to audit that.”
Ms Murphy replies: “Some €100,000 is transferred into a company that is separate from An Garda Síochána from funds that come into the restaurant – because of surpluses made in the restaurant – from public funds. Is that right?
Mr Kelly replies: “That is correct, yes.”
Ms Murphy also raises St Raphael’s Garda Credit Union, saying: “The credit union seems to have gifted the restaurant a considerable amount during the moratorium to keep the restaurant going. There are four sums of €100,000 each on different dates. The Central Bank has a regulatory role in respect of credit unions. Is the bank engaged with St. Raphael’s Garda credit union? Has it examined any of this?”
In response, Ms O’Sullivan says:
“St. Raphael’s Garda credit union is an independent entity and, therefore, it does not come under An Garda Síochána.”
Joseph Nugent tells PAC that, of the 19 recommendations Niall Kelly made in his internal audit report, eight have been implemented in full.
Mr Nugent also states: “In terms of the remainder, we are in the process of formalising them. I would like to see the majority of them dealt with by the middle of this year, but the chairman has raised some complicators that will make that difficult.”
In response to a query from Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell about why Niall Kelly was tasked with doing an audit in 2016 – despite reports previously highlighting issues, Mr Kelly told PAC:
“I was asking questions in 2008 and 2009 but I was not getting answers. In March 2011, in relation to the 2010 accounts, I got assurances that issues were being addressed. What happened in 2011 was that effectively the college closed and there was very little activity. Between 2011 and 2014, if I had gone to audit I probably would not have found anything because effectively we were doing nothing. In 2014-2015 these issues started arising again. In 2016, we were brought in to do the audit.”
Independent TD Catherine Connolly also asks questions about St Raphael’s Credit Union. She had the following exchange with Joseph Nugent and Niall Kelly:
Catherine Connolly: “Let us look at page dealing with St. Raphael’s credit union, which also lists temporary investment accounts. Look at the list. It includes Bank of Ireland temporary investment accounts, a Zurich investment policy and so on. There is a huge number of bank accounts. There is Royal mutual investment, New Ireland Assurance and so on. All these accounts have been open. I understand gardaí cannot open accounts without the permission of the Minister for Justice and Equality. Is that correct?”
Joseph Nugent: “That is correct.”
Connolly: “Okay. Was permission given for all of these accounts by the Minister for Justice and Equality, whoever he or she was?”
Kelly: “I did not find it in my audit.”
May 4, 2017: The first Public Accounts Committee looking at the Garda College takes place.
Those attending include: Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan; Head of Legal Affairs Kenneth Ruane, Executive Director of Human Resources and People Development John Barrett, Chief Administrative Officer Joseph Nugent, Deputy Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin, with responsibility for governance and strategy; Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly and Executive Director of Finance and Services Michael Culhane.
From the Department of Justice and Equality are John O’Callaghan, assistant secretary of the policing division; Anne Barry and Paul McDonald, and from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform John Burke.
Independent TD Catherine Connolly asks Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan if she accepts that the McGee report is damning. Ms O’Sullivan replies: “Absolutely, as I say deputy, it is completely unacceptable.”
This differs to Mr Barrett’s understanding of Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan’s response to the McGee report during the meeting of the July 27, 2015.
Mr Barrett claims, at that meeting, the Commissioner perused the 2008 report and concluded that there was no evidence of misappropriation, it was overly critical and the problems overstated.
Mary 31, 2017: The Garda College is the focus of a second meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. Those attending the meeting include Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly, Executive Director, Human Resources and People Development John Barrett, Executive Director Finance and Services Michael Culhane, Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane, Chief Administrative Officer Joseph Nugent, and former Head of the Garda Audit Committee Michael Howard.
Representatives from the Department of Justice and Equality also attend, including Anne Barry, principal officer, policing division; and Paul McDonnell from the policing division.
In his opening statement, Mr Kelly tells PAC:
“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.”
“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.”
Mr Kelly also tells PAC there are now six accounts open in relation to the Garda College of which he’s aware.
Labour TD Alan Kelly asks Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly if has he ever come across any cheques made out to senior gardaí by the gardaí themselves. Mr Kelly said he did, he came across “hundreds” of them and there could be payments of thousands.
Mr Kelly also confirms that internal audit is examining this.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asks:
Does Mr Kelly or Mr Nugent know if anything was discovered when the bank accounts were being closed? Is there any specific indication of any Templemore moneys being sent to a bank account in Dublin which was under the control of a former senior Garda officer? Is a specific investigation being carried out concerning anything of that nature?
Niall Kelly responded:
“With the permission of the Chair, I would rather not answer that question because it concerns an ongoing audit.”
May/June 2017: Chief Supt Anne Marie McMahon makes another retrospective declaration regarding SIPO.
June 14, 2017: At a third Public Accounts Committee involving the Garda College, those in attendance were: Deputy Commissioner, Dónall Ó Cualáin; Assistant Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon; Chief Superintendent Margaret Nugent; Superintendent Pat McCabe; Barry McGee, author of the 2008 report; Chief Administrative Officer Joe Nugent; and former Chief Administrative Officer Cyril Dunne.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mr Dunne tells the PAC that he has not read Mr Kelly’s interim audit report. He said Mr Kelly provided him with two pages, in which he’s referenced but, when asked if Mr Dunne asked Mr Kelly for a copy of the full report, he said he didn’t.
Mr Dunne is also asked if he will be present for the afternoon portion of the PAC meeting. He said he won’t be as he has other commitments. He later changes his plans.
He also tells PAC that he first told Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan about the matters concerning the Garda College in first week of July 2015 and he says the audit committee was briefed about the financial irregularities in September 2015 but that Mr Barrett wasn’t told this.
June 13, 2017: It’s reported that head of human resources John Barrett has resigned from the Policing Authority’s ethics committee because of his ongoing dispute with Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and others over the Garda College scandal.
Previously: ‘I Was Counselled To Be Very Careful’