Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly at the PAC in May
You may recall the Public Accounts Committee has been examining the Garda College in Templemore and its financial irregularities.
A timeline about these irregularities can be read here.
The PAC has recently held several meetings with senior civilian staff, including the Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly.
At a previous meeting of the PAC, Mr Kelly said he would be completing two additional audits, on top of his overall examination of the Garda College.
These two extra audits were to involve an audit of EU funded programmes/projects; and a systems audit of cash and general management in the Garda College restaurant and shop.
Broadsheet understands that these two reports have been completed and sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General while the first (in relation to EU funding) has been sent to GSOC and OLAF (the EU’s anti-fraud office).
Mr Kelly is also expected to carry out an audit of investment accounts associated with the Garda College and review the interim audit on financial controls in the Garda College.
Broadsheet also understands that Mr Kelly has informed the PAC that while he had previously indicated, on July 5, that he was not given access to internal audit to two St Raphael’s Credit Union accounts managed from Templemore, account statements for the accounts have been provided to him.
However, he has warned PAC that he is still awaiting access to at least one other St Raphael’s account managed from Dublin.
He previously warned the PAC that there may be accounts unknown to his department to which public funds have been lodged.
Head of Human Resources at An Garda Siochana John Barrett at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee yesterday
Several senior members of the civilian staff at An Garda Siochana attended the Public Accounts Committee to discuss the internal audit report into the Garda College, compiled by head of internal audit Niall Kelly and given to the PAC earlier this year.
Mr Kelly’s report was carried out for head of human resources John Barrett, who started his job in October 2014, becoming aware of financial irregularities at the college in June 2015.
Mr Kelly’s report found concerns similar to ones previously highlighted in a separate report by Barry McGee in 2008.
Mr Kelly’s report audited expenditure worth €112million from January 1, 2009 to March 31, 2016 and identified 48 separate bank accounts relating to the college.
It found, among other matters, that money was transferred between accounts – for example, €400,000 was transferred from its bar account to its restaurant account, while €100,000 was transferred from its Sportsfield Co Limited to the Garda Boat Club, a private sports club.
It also found 37% of its laundry and services account had nothing to do with laundry or services and, instead, was spent on meals/entertainment, contributions to charity, contributions to parish clergy, and “golf society”.
In addition, rent worth €124,903 was collected for the use of Dromard Farm even though the OPW legally owned the land and, therefore, was entitled to the money.
Readers will recall how Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan told PAC on May 4 that she first learned of the concerns on July 27, 2015 and that, the following day (July 28, 2015) she set up a steering committee to look into the matters.
Further to this…
Those attending PAC yesterday included Mr Kelly; Mr Barrett; Michael Culhane – Executive Director, Finance and Services; Ken Ruane – Head of Legal Services; Joseph Nugent – Chief Administrative Officer; Michael Howard – former Head of the Garda Audit Committee.
Some notes from the meeting:
– PAC heard that, on June 30, 2015, Garda’s head of legal affairs Ken Ruane met Mr Barrett and was told about the issues relating to the college. Mr Ruane was also told that the matters had been reported to the Garda’s chief administration officer Cyril Dunne who passed them on to Ms O’Sullivan. Mr Ruane told PAC he had notes to prove his concerns were passed to Ms O’Sullivan.
– PAC heard that the steering group to look into the Garda College issues was in operation since July 2, 2015.
– None of the civilian staff at PAC could say definitively if An Garda Siochana is tax compliant.
– Head of Legal Affairs in An Garda Síochána Ken Ruane told the PAC he was asked to change minutes he took of a meeting of the steering group, on August 6, 2015, by the CAO Cryil Dunne.
– In a letter from Michael Culhane to Noirin O’Sullivan in October 2015, Mr Culhane asked: “Is JB (John Barrett) unwittingly guilty of a criminal offence under the Official Secrets Act?” Mr Barrett told PAC he sought, directly and through his solicitor, to get this letter six times but was denied. He eventually got the letter but 85% of it was redacted. At PAC, Mr Culhane admitted this claim was unwise.
– In a letter Michael Culhane sent to Niall Kelly in February of this year, he accused Mr Kelly of being unprofessional, misleading and mischievous. At PAC, Mr Culhane withdrew the claim.
– The PAC heard senior gardaí have made out cheques, of up to thousands of euro, to themselves.
– Mr Kelly said they are now being examined to see if these cheques have been vouched for – with one audit going back to 1998.
– Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy asked Mr Kelly if there was any indication of any Templemore monies being sent to a bank account in Dublin under the control of a former senior Garda officer. Mr Kelly said he’d rather not answer that question because it’s the subject of audit.
– In a June 25 email sent by Barry McGee, the author of a report in 2008 which identified many of the issues/concerns highlighted in Niall Kelly’s 2017 report, to John Barrett, Mr McGee wrote:
“I think the problem in approaching the solving of this, is that because of the potential negative reputational risk for the organisation – in that once this starts to be sorted it hits the public media, either though 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 quiety without risking exposure – again this is just my opinion – so this report was quiet [sic] sensitive – Michael [Culhane] has said it you wish to meet to discuss this etc might be useful – It is not necessarily a nice report, I would like to think that the report is more based on systems and how systems were set up and evolved possibly incorrectly particularly with view to the way government accounting and government accounting regulations apply currently.”
“For example, today or at the moment, the Garda Siochana organisation cannot for example open a bank account without seeking sanction from the DPERs, whereby if you have to write to them setting the purpose of the bank account and they give sanction for the same to open it – and of course setting up companies or entities would need ministerial sanction I would imagine as it is a big deal in principle to set up a sub company from a department – for example,
in terms of the purchase of land, this is a problem for the college because the Garda Commissioner is not meant to hold any lands under legislation as far as I am aware and such lands will have to be transferred by some mechanism to the OPW.
– Mr Kelly told PAC that, following a meeting on October 1, 2015, in which Noirin O’Sullivan perused the 2008 McGee Report, she felt the 2008 report was “overly critical”. Mr Kelly also said there was a reticence among Commissioner and others to accept the conclusions of the 2008 report.
Meanwhile, just before the meeting finished up last night, Mr Barrett said the following:
“Chairman, I come before you knowing the democratic power of this institution you represent the people of Ireland, you are the elected representatives. And I come here hoping to leave, having answered your questions fully and thoroughly.
I see this as a very significant matter for an organisation who must enjoy the trust of the people of Ireland, who must enjoy that trust because the powers that can be exercised – caution, arrest, detention – are of such constitutional significance that we need to have our house, not just in order, but in absolute order.
“So I sit here with a sense of embarrassment that we haven’t. But with no sense of personal regret that I raised this issue and that I continue to believe that I did the right thing in persisting.
“And there’s credit due to people on my right and on my left for their assistance in this regard. But I think it is clear, I feel quite frankly, that I didn’t have universal support and that reality is a reality that I want you to consider.
“I look, as I said to Mr [David] Cullinane, I look for no bouquets in this, I feel that I am doing my job but I want you to understand it’s not easy. And the assistance that you can give in ensuring that the standards that are required of us are demanded by you consistently and that we deliver – that will embolden others to do the right thing and to step forward in difficult situations. That is a key cultural change that you can help make.”
The PAC meeting can be watched back in full by downloading the video files from here [Committee Room 3].
An Garda Siochana’s executive director in finance and services Michael Culhane, head of internal audit Niall Kelly, head of human resources John Barrett at PAC this morning
You may recall head of human resources at An Garda Siochana John Barrett.
He was the civilian member of the guards who told Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan about the financial irregularities at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary on July 27, 2015.
This is the date Ms O’Sullivan told the PAC, on May 4, that she first heard of the irregularities.
Mr Barrett claims they, and others, discussed the matters for more than two hours. Ms O’Sullivan said they were discussed over a “very brief” meeting while having tea.
You may also recall how, in his notes, of the July 2015 meeting, Mr Barrett maintains he was “counselled to be very careful” when he “referred to the loss of all books of account prior to a date which coincided with the retirement of a restaurant manager”.
In September 2015, Mr Barrett urged Ms O’Sullivan to inform the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) of his concerns about Templemore but Ms Fitzgerald wasn’t informed until some weeks later.
Further to this…
Several civilian members of An Garda Siochana are before the Public Accounts Committee today.
Niall Kelly – Head of Internal Audit (author of the audit report); John Barrett – Executive Director, Human Resources and People Development; Michael Culhane – Executive Director, Finance and Services; Ken Ruane – Head of Legal Services; Joseph Nugent – Chief Administrative Officer; Michael Howard – former Head of the Garda Audit Committee.
Mr Kelly, who was the author of Garda College interim audit report on serious financial irregularities at the Garda College, was the only person to give an opening statement to the Public Accounts Committee.
In it, he said:
“In regards to interference and non co-operation and withholding of information from internal audit, there are three periods of time that should be considered. Firstly, the period from 2008 to 2011. Secondly, the period from July 2015 to March 2016 and thirdly, the period from September 2016 to March 2017.”
Further to this…
Readers should note documentation sent to the Public Accounts Committee, ahead of today’s meeting, includes a letter which was sent from the executive director of finance Michael Culhane to Noirin O’Sullivan on October 25, 2015, urging her to investigate Mr Barrett.
In relation to this letter…
Catherine Connolly: “As a lay person looking at it, and we have all these reports and they haven’t been acted on, isn’t that right? 2006, I don’t know what happened the 2006 report. But the 2008 [McGee] report made very strong recommendations. Your colleague Mr Kelly says some were acted on, some were reversed and some weren’t acted on at all. Can you stand over that?”
Michael Culhane: “Well, I can’t stand over that because I mean, I can only…”
Connolly: “You can or you can’t?”
Culhane: “I can-well in terms of, I can only give advice.”
Connolly: “No, can you stand over that, sorry? Do you accept that the 2008 [report] wasn’t implemented.”
Culhane: “I do yes.”
Connolly: “Ok, and that parts of it that were implemented were reversed, that’s what Mr Kelly says clearly in…”
Culhane: “I accept his evaluation.”
Connolly: “You accept that, ok. Have you confidence in your colleague Mr [John] Barrett?”
Culhane: “I accept his professionalism, yes.”
Connolly: “You do. But, at the same time, you’d like him to be examined under the Official Secrecy Act?”
Culhane: “Well, I had concerns about, I had concerns about, in terms of what he actually, the manner in which he was treating confidential documents.”
Connolly: “And do you still have concerns?”
Culhane: “Well, given the passage of time, and on reflection, no I don’t.”
Connolly: “Ok, and do you regret doing that?”
Culhane: “I suppose with the benefit of hindsight, it probably wasn’t wise to make that statement.”
A few seconds later
John Barrett: “I have asked three times myself personally, four times through my solicitor to have the document that has just been referred to, that was released to your committee [PAC] yesterday, given to me. 85% of the document, that eventually was released under Freedom of Information – consider how this might play – was redacted in protection of the very issues that the Finance Director has now discussed. That reflects the situation in its reality.
“And his correspondence was made available to your committee, I think it’s important that you have it. I discovered the existence of that letter almost a year to the day after it had been written. I think it is appalling that such information and the interesting inversion of trust that was presented to you, appalls me.
We requested legitimately a letter written about me, that I had no knowledge of, that alleges a potential criminal offence, breaks of natural justice, constitutional procedure, none of that existed. And I discover it, yesterday, as being included in the PAC to this committee.”
Sean Fleming (chairman): “Which letter are we referring to?”
Barrett: “The letter of the 25th of October 2015…”
Alan Kelly: “Just to clarfiy, you were not aware that this was, it wasn’t provided to you under the requests that you made, but yet it was provided to this committee.”
Barrett: “Yes, sir… I wrote directly, myself, when I became aware this letter existed, I asked for a copy…I wrote to the Commissioner three times to the best of my knowledge.”
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane at PAC this morning
David Cullinane: “There’s been two sets of correspondence. One in relation to Mr Barrett where you attempt to undermine his work and another set of correspondence in relation to Mr Kelly, where you attempt to undermined his work and you say in writing that the report was ‘unprofessional, misleading and mischievous’. So you have a duty and responsibility to inform this committee today, how you believed that his report was unprofessional, misleading and mischievous. You have a duty and you haven’t done that. So please explain to me how the report was unprofessional, misleading and mischievous.”
Culhane: “There’s a lot of working parts in the report and, indeed, in the operation of An Garda Siochana. So, I suppose, by summary of views that I had in terms of the contents of the report, and I again, you’ve said it several times before, but I mean there was a history there, which, in relation to the college which wasn’t adequately explained.”
Cullinane: “Do you believe, one final question: And I want to put this to Mr Kelly and Mr Barrett, do you believe, Mr Kelly, when that letter was written and when Mr Culhane said your report was unprofessional, misleading and mischievous and he went further and asked you to amend your report, did you see that as a direct interference in your report and an attempt to get you to either water down or lessen the content of your report?”
Niall Kelly: “Yes.”
Cullinane: “Yes. And did you have a similar experience, Mr Barrett?”
Barrett: “With respect to the letter of October 15, I never saw the letter until yesterday.”
Cullinane: “But now that you’ve seen it, would you see that as an attempt to undermine…”
Barrett: “Absolutely, very deliberate collaring of what I felt was my obligation to deal and illuminate these matters which have long since been left to continue.”
Cullinane: “And do you now see that as serious, Mr Culhane, that we have the head of internal audit and we have the head of human resources, both seeing it in the same way that I can, that you tried to undermine their work. We talked earlier about the circling of the wagons, about, you said it yourself, things should be kept inhouse, do you not see that you are part of the problem? And that you, by what you’ve put in writing and we’ve heard from two senior people, in civilian roles in An Garda Siochana, they felt you were trying to interfere with their work.”
Sean Fleming (chair): “Just answer that last question.”
Culhane: “I don’t see, I don’t see myself as being part of the problem. I think I see myself as being part of the solution because of the actions that I have taken on the issues identified in the 2008 report. I had no desire to undermine the professionalism of these two gentlemen. Niall Kelly is an independent auditor and he produces his reports without any, in terms of, without any need for any reference to me. So, I don’t see that I’d be interfering with his independence.”
Cullinane: “You tried to get him to alter his report. You threatened him with legal action. You said if he did not amend his reports, you would seek legal advice and you would take legal action and you’re sitting there telling me that you did not try to interfere with the work of internal audit. It’s incredible for you to say that. How could you threaten legal action against the head of internal audit, almost unprecedented, and then say ‘that wasn’t an attempt by me to interfere with the work’. You cannot say that Mr Culhane.”
Fleming: “Mr Culhane, today, in front of the PAC, do you still stand over that sentence: “in omitting these acts, the report is unprofessional, misleading and mischievous” today, the 31st of May 2017, would you agree with that today?”
Culhane: “On reflection, chairman, I probably, it was an unwise use of those words.”
Fleming: “Would you like to withdraw that statement?”
Culhane: “I think it would be, yes…”
Fleming: “Because before the committee, that statement is in writing before this committee.”
Culhane: “Yes I would like to withdraw it yes..”
Fleming: “You’ll withdraw that statement then?”
Fleming: “That’s helpful.”
Labour TD Alan Kelly at PAC earlier today
Barrett: “…in the period that had elapsed from July  when I originally prepared a report to go to Mr [Michael] Howard, through Mr [Cyril] Dunne, and we’re reaching now into the third week of September and I have concerns that the thing is not being treated in the multi-million off-balance sheet as Michael Culhane described it activity that is continuing. It is an active, ongoing enterprise within an organisation that I have line responsibility for. And so, in setting it out very clearly, I do go through the very specific issues that Fennelly raises in relation to what a Section 41[which provides that anything of significant relevance should be brought to the attention of the Minister for Justice] is intended to do and how it is that this applies absolutely to the matters of gravity that I dealt with in my report of the 6th of July. And I was very deliberately putting it on the record.”
Alan Kelly: “How would you see Mr [Cyril] Dunn reacted?”
Barrett: “I think that question could be better put to Mr Dunne but…”
Kelly: “Of course, but I want your opinion.”
Barrett: “My opinion is that we were at that point into a situation where the past history that I’d become aware of was repeating itself, as in the 2008 report, nothing was done, it continued. I felt there was a danger, quite frankly that my report of July 2015 was going to go the way of its predecessors.”
Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy
Catherine Murphy: “Another thing that strikes me, I’d like to clear a few of these things first, one thing that strikes me is: the idea that you were keeping contemporaneous notes, that you were referencing some of your meetings with Mr [head of legal affairs Ken] Ruane, the idea that the internal auditor [Niall Kelly] is sending himself registered, it is yourself Mr Kelly...?”
John Barrett: “Oh, I do that, I do that.”
Murphy: “I mean that strikes me as a self protection mechanism. Would that be correct?”
Barrett: “Let’s look at what we’ve recently read in our newspapers, concerning whether records were destroyed or whether telecommunications equipment survived. I was very conscious of the fact is that what I was dealing with here was well known, understood for a number of years and the curiosity in my mind was why was this not dealt with expeditiously?”
Barrett: “Relating to material sums of money, in the public vote, in the period 2004 – 2014, it’s €12.4million of taxpayers’ money…”
Niall Kelly, head of Internal Audit at An Garda Síochána
You may recall the near one million breath tests that gardaí recorded they took between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2016, but, in March, conceded they didn’t take.
Further to this.
Conor Lally, in The Irish Times, reports that the head of internal audit at An Garda Síochána, Niall Kelly, has contacted the Policing Authority about the Garda review of these figures.
Mr Lally reports:
Mr Kelly has pointed out that neither he nor his staff were involved in the review process. Because of that, and also because the formal rigours of an audit process were not followed, he has insisted the process cannot be called an audit.
Senior Garda management have referred to the process as an audit.
At a press conference when the scandal broke in March, Deputy Garda Commissioner John Twomey referred to it as an audit.
A paragraph Niall Kelly deleted from the final version of a report on the Garda College in 2011, recorded in the 2017 Interim Audit Report into Financial Procedures in the college
Readers may recall how, last week, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and other senior gardai attended a Public Accounts Committee meeting to discuss financial irregularities at the Garda College in Templemore.
Mr Kelly also attended PAC, during which it was discussed a matter mentioned in the Interim Audit Report into Financial Procedures in the Garda College which was given to PAC in March.
This matter was in relation to how, in 2011, he deleted a paragraph (above) from the final version of his Report to the Garda Commissioner in relation to Financial Controls in 2010 – after he was assured that the issues were addressed.
In PAC, Mr Kelly had the following exchange with Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane, in which Mr Kelly said he felt he had been “duped” and that he was caught in the “circling of wagons”.
Micheal Culhane, executive director of finance and services at An Garda Siochana, was also involved in the exchange.
David Cullinane: “Page 14 of the report refers to the Garda Commissioner and 2 March 2011 and contains a paragraph which says “no assurances were given”. That paragraph was removed and deleted and Mr. Kelly said this was because he was given assurances.”
Niall Kelly: “I was provided with a summarised report from Mr Culhane [Michael Culhane, executive director of finance and services at An Garda Siochana] and assurances that the issues were being dealt with.”
Cullinane: “Did Mr. Culhane give the assurances to Mr. Kelly?”
Michael Culhane: “I did not give them directly to Mr. Kelly. It went to the CAO showing the progress that had been made on some of the issues.”
Cullinane: “However, the assurances were given by Mr. Culhane. The CAO was the conduit but the assurances were given by Mr. Culhane.”
Culhane: “I did not give assurances. I gave an update on the report.”
Cullinane: “However, Mr. Kelly saw this as assurances because he said he deleted the paragraph because of assurances that were given.”
Kelly: “Yes. I had conversations with the audit committee.”
Cullinane: “Who gave Mr. Kelly the assurances he talked about?”
Kelly: “I got the report. I spoke to the CAO at the time. I spoke to the chairman of the audit committee at the time. It had gone to the Commissioner. The note had come back from the Commissioner, in the margins of the letter back from the Commissioner, that this report should be provided to me. I had highlighted my issues to the highest level in the organisation. Ultimately, my role is an advisory role.”
Cullinane: “Everyone is passing the buck.”
Kelly: “I am not passing the…”
Cullinane: “I do not say Mr. Kelly is here. He deleted a vital paragraph based on assurances that action was being taken. Who gave him those assurances?”
Kelly: “The CAO primarily.”
Cullinane: “Who did he get them from?”
Kelly: “From Mr. Culhane.”
Cullinane: “That is what I am trying to establish exactly. Mr. Kelly’s view now is that those assurances were not worth the paper they were written on. Would that be a fair...”
Kelly: “That would be true. I would also say that it was a mistake on my part to delete that paragraph.”
Cullinane: “Mr. Kelly is brave enough to accept that he made a mistake.”
Cullinane: “I commend him on that. Does he feel he was duped?”
Kelly: “I do.”
Cullinane: “Does he regret that he was duped in that way?”
Cullinane: “Who does he believe duped him? Perhaps he should name offices rather than individuals.”
Kelly: “I think that is an unfair question to ask. It could be a range of people.”
Vice Chairman Alan Kelly: “In the interest of fairness, does Mr. Kelly feel it was multiple people or one person?”
Kelly: “Reference was made to culture. There was a different culture at that stage. There was a culture of circling the wagons and I got caught trying to bang into the wagons.”
Cullinane: “Does Mr. Kelly agree that the culture of An Garda Síochána up to 2015 was to circle the wagons rather than to accept there was wrongdoing and correct it? Would that be his view as head of internal audit?”
Kelly:Speaking now, having gone through the past five years and writing this report, that is the only conclusion I can come to.”