Tag Archives: PAC

From top: President Michael D Higgins Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry; Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy

This morning.

At the Public Accounts Committee.

PAC member Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry raised an allowance of €317,000 that the person holding the office of the President of Ireland is entitled to per year.

The committee was told the figure was set by statutory instrument in 1998, when Mary McAleese was president.

It was also told the €317,000 annual allowance is not audited, not taxed and doesn’t need to be surrendered.

From this morning’s proceedings…

Marc Mac Sharry: “Can I ask the C&AG, are you aware of an amount of €325,000 per year in the president’s establishment – the detail of which is not open for you to audit.”

Seamus McCarthy: “Yeah, I think it’s something less than that. I think the official salary of the president is…”

MacSharry: “No, no, not the salary, I’m not talking about salaries at all. And I don’t want to talk about the president either.”

McCarthy: “No, yeah, I’m aware of the other allowance which is…”

MacSharry: “So what is that?”

McCarthy: “It is…”

MacSharry: “How much…”

McCarthy: “I don’t have the figure off hand. It’s paid through the finance accounts, the Central Fund of the Exchequer.”

MacSharry: “Do you know what amount that is, per year?”

McCarthy: “I don’t, I don’t think so deputy…”

Sean Fleming [chairman]: “What the title?”

MacSharry: “I don’t think it has a title. That’s why I’m trying to get some answers. I asked the C&AG are you aware of an amount of money, in or around €325,000 per year, I’m not talking about salaries here. Which is not open to the C&AG…”

McCarthy: “It’s a payment, I think, for 2017, the figure is €317,000.”

MacSharry: “€317,000.”

McCarthy: “It’s a payment under the Presidential Establishment Act 1938 as amended.”

MacSharry: “Ok. So the Presidential Establishment Act, a payment under that, of €317,000, in terms of 2017…”

McCarthy: “It’s an allowance.”

MacSharry: “That’s an allowance for the president. Sorry, so that, so it’s renumeration then is it?”

McCarthy: “No, well, it’s an allowance. Yeah. It’s not pensionable.”

MacSharry: “Right. It’s not a salary.”

McCarthy: “It’s not a salary, it’s an allowance.”

MacSharry: “It’s an allowance.”

McCarthy: “An allowance.”

MacSharry: “And you don’t audit that?”

McCarthy: “I don’t audit that. I audit the issuing of the payment from the Central Fund.”

MacSharry: “You audit the issuing. So what’s involved in auditing the issuing of…”

McCarthy: “Ensuring that the amount that’s paid over is not in excess of the amount that is provided for in law.”

MacSharry: “And in this act, if we look it up, does it say €317,000 or how’s that amount…”

McCarthy: “A statutory instrument from 1998 set the figure at €317,000 and it hasn’t changed since 1998.”

MacSharry: “Ok. Do you know the number of that statutory instrument by any chance?”

McCarthy: “97.”

MacSharry: “Ok. €317,000 per year. You’re saying it’s an allowance but it’s not renumeration. So, in ten years, that’s €3.2million or thereabouts?”

McCarthy: “Obviously, yeah.”

MacSharry: “Do you know what it’s used for? Does that act prescribe…”

McCarthy: “No, it doesn’t prescribe what it’s use for…”

MacSharry: “Ok. So. €317,000 per year allowance, not audited, we don’t know what it’s used for and it’s not prescribed in law. Is that correct?”

McCarthy: “The purpose is not prescribed in law.”

MacSharry: “It’s purpose meaning it’s use – what it’s used for?”

McCarthy: “Other then that it is a payment that can be made to the president, that’s what the law says.”

Later

MacSharry: “What we have – €317,000 per year, provided under an act, we don’t know what it’s for, it’s an allowance. We don’t know what it’s purpose is for, it could be spent, theoretically, on anything, it mightn’t be spent at all, presumably. Is this an amount that’s surrender-able at the end of the year or…”

McCarthy: “No. It’s not surrender-able.”

MacSharry: “Ok, so it’s an allowance for unknown items, or unknown purposes, not audited and presumably not subject to taxation because it’s not salary or whatever.

McCarthy: “That’s correct yeah.”

Later

MacSharry: “Is it reasonable to say, and I know sometimes my language is a little bit flippant but is this a €317,000 payment on the blind? That no-one passes any remote oversight, notion, idea, look, at what it’s spent on? Is that the case?”

McCarthy:I don’t know, deputy.”

Later

McCarthy: “I do have a piece of information which may be relevant. In 2011, an amount of €357,000 was returned to the Central Fund at the end of the previous president’s [McAleese] presidency.”

MacSharry: “That would indicate then…sorry, just because it’s on the same thread…that this €317,000 can be paid per annum, be accumulated and then, if there’s amounts left over, as would seem to be the case in 2011, the balance was refunded to the Central Exchequer. Ok. But still, whoever was the incumbent, or whoever was responsible at that time, we don’t know what the money was spent on per year and we still don’t.”

“We want to get the procedures but we do know the Secretary General of An Taoiseach doesn’t know, the C&AG is not responsible and doesn’t know and the Department of Finance Secretary General, according to yourself, the C&AG, also doesn’t know, or doesn’t have a role in auditing that amount of money. So I think that’s significant.”

Follow PAC proceedings live here

Government Secretary General Martin Fraser this morning

This morning.

At a Public Accounts Committee hearing.

Government Secretary General Martin Fraser is addressing questions from TDs about spending related to President Michael D Higgins’ term of office.

More as we get it.

Watch proceedings live here

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar launching his ‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ campaign, when he was Minister for Social Protection in May 2017; the Public Accounts Committee this morning; Secretary General of the Department of Employment Social Protection John McKeon at the PAC

This morning.

At a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.

Officials from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection fielded questions from the committee in light of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s 2016 report’s findings on social welfare payments, overpayments and schemes.

The officials included Secretary General of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection John McKeon, above.

And how is the meeting going?

Ah.

Previously: The Real Figure Stands At €41million

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy

This morning.

The Public Accounts Committee.

“Eight out of the 100 companies with the highest taxable income had an effective tax rates of zero, including some which had negative rates, ie instead of paying corporation tax, they received rebates.

A further five had an effective rate of less than 1%

These very low effective rates reflected the use by the companies of significant tax credits and reliefs in particular double taxation relief and research and development tax credits.”

Comptroller and Auditor General  Seamus McCarthy, this morning.

Good times.

Apple’s €13 billion won’t be transferred until next year, PAC told (RTÉ)

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.

Previously: A Templemore Timeline

Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane; Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan

You may recall how Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has repeatedly told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that she first learned of the issues concerning the Garda College on July 27, 2015 when head of HR John Barrett briefed her and others.

Mr Barrett claims he was told by College Administrator Sgt Pat McCabe that Ms O’Sullivan knew as early as June 23, 2015, while Mr Barrett claims former Chief Administrative Officer Cyril Dunne told him Ms O’Sullivan knew on June 30, 2015.

Specifically, Ms O’Sullivan told PAC that, after she was briefed on July 27, 2015, she set up a working group to deal with the issues. But Mr Barrett also told PAC that a meeting on July 2, 2015 was “the first meeting of the steering group established to examine the issues”.

Further to this…

The Irish Independent is reporting that the Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane has written to PAC contradicting Ms O’Sullivan’s account of events from her most recent appearance before PAC last week.

Cormac Quinn reports:

During last week’s appearance at the PAC, Ms O’Sullivan said: “The fact is this [working] group was established and it was to go through the process of informing all the relevant parties, keeping the Department [of Justice] and everyone else informed of that.

“I entrusted the job, and the sequence with which that was done, to the group as it was established. It is my understanding that it is accepted practice that the Accounting Officer cannot have oversight and responsibility for absolutely everything.”

In his letter, Mr Ruane quoted this section of Ms O’Sullivan’s evidence.

He wrote: “In my personal capacity as an individual who was asked to be a member of this group, I do not accept and cannot agree with the statement made above by the Commissioner in the context of the process of ‘informing all the relevant parties’.”

Garda legal chief disputes O’Sullivan evidence to PAC on training college (Irish Independent)

Previously: A Templemore Timeline

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar taking Leaders’ Questions earlier today

Earlier this afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked about the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald reminded Mr Varadkar of several items that emerged in the Public Accounts Committee yesterday, including:

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan claims she first learned of the concerns about the Garda College on July 27, 2015 when head of HR John Barrett briefed her and others about the matters.

Mr Barrett claims he was told by College Administrator Sgt Pat McCabe that Ms O’Sullivan knew as early as June 23, 2015, while Mr Barrett claims former Chief Administrative Officer Cyril Dunne told him Ms O’Sullivan knew on June 30, 2015.

Either way, on July 31, 2015 four days after the briefing from Mr Barrett – Ms O’Sullivan wrote a letter to the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy stating: “I have disclosed to you all the instances of loss, fraud or irregularity are known to have occurred or have been reported”.

But she didn’t disclose the matters concerning the Garda College to Mr McCarthy.

And the C&AG was only eventually made aware on May 31, 2016, by the head of internal audit Niall Kelly – who has previously cla

Readers may wish to recall that at a previous PAC meeting, on June 14, 2017, the current Chief Administration Officer at the College Dónall Ó Cualáin said:

At that point [October 2015], 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.

Further to this, Ms McDonald asked Mr Varadkar if he has confidence in Noirin O’Sullivan, who became interim Garda Commissioner in 2014.

Further to this…

Mr Varadkar replied:

“Yes, I do have confidence in the Garda Commissioner and the Government does, too. The problems that are besetting the gardai are long-standing.  Many, most, if not all of the problems that beset the gardai predate her becoming Garda Commissioner. And I believe that she is somebody who is fighting many battles on many fronts in an effort to put things right.”

Hmmm.

Previously: A Templemore Timeline

Meanwhile…

In The Irish Times

Political reporter Sarah Bardon writes:

The [PAC] session was mammoth and the line of questioning was robust. But at times it seemed unfair to the witness.

O’Sullivan faced committee members that have already decided she is unfit for office. Can she expect a fair hearing when at least 10 of the 13 members have stated publicly they believe she should be removed as commissioner?

Questioning of Nóirín O’Sullivan was intense and sometimes unfair (The Irish Times)

This afternoon.

At the Public Accounts Committee.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc Mac Sharry brought the committee’s attention to correspondence that was only made available to it this morning.

The correspondence is an email thread between Chief Financial Officer at An Garda Siochana Michael Culhane – who was head of finance in 2010 – and Eugene Banks, of the Garda division in from the Department of Justice.

It also includes emails from George Reddan, of PwC, to Mr Culhane.

After Mr Mac Sharry brought attention to these emails, An Garda Siochana’s Chief Administration Officer Joe Nugent told the PAC that he had received the material yesterday afternoon, even though it was datestamped as having been opened on June 14.

He said, because of this, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan hadn’t had a chance to read the correspondence in advance the meeting.

First of all, Mr Mac Sharry explained that it was John Barrett, head of HR, who sent the emails to Mr Nugent…

Marc Mac Sharry: “So basically, this document, as I said, I just got it, I didn’t see sight of it, I got wind that there may be a document in relation to charitable status. I asked for it. And this was produced. OK.

“Now for the record, the cover note, which I want to read into the record, it’s to the Chief Administration Officer [Joe Nugent], it’s from John Barrett, it’s dated the 13th of June 2017. And notwithstanding the fact that we appreciate that the CAO has said that he didn’t see it until yesterday, the 19th. It is the date stamp from his office, from the 14th of June.

“So somebody read it, in your [CAO Joe Nugent] office to the extent that they stamped it and if you were away or otherwise engaged, I’m sure there’s somebody with delegated responsibility in your office, that if something is important to pass on up the line, the Commissioner can clarify that.

“Anyway, I want to read this:

‘I refer to a hand-delivered document, an Oireachtas envelope, which arrived at the gate this morning. I’ve no idea of its provenance. It was collected by Mr Paul Flood from my office and this is a copy of the content which you may wish to note.

I’d respectfully suggest that you draw the attention of all the various correspondence to this document and provide them with copies, as a matter of courtesy.

Further, it seems to me, that the Public Accounts Committee may have an interest in the content and I will again respectfully suggest that this be brought to the attention of the PAC immediately.’

“So, let the record show, it wasn’t brought to our attention, we brought it to our own attention. Anyway, moving on, there’s one specific small email which does follow on from correspondence between PwC and Mr Culhane, in 2010, in relation to matters of taxation and all of the issues before us here today. And then, he, in turn, was obviously, corresponding or in contact with Eugene Banks of the Garda division of the Department of Justice.

“And one email I find extremely troubling. It’s one of the 5th of July 2010 at 17.26pm which seems to be a response to Eugene Banks of the Garda division, who is inquiring had there been any developments on the matter raised below. In particular, the relationship between the [Garda] College and the companies and the legal entity of the college itself.

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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.

The Garda College has since been the subject of three PAC meetings – on May 4, May 31 and June 14.

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.”

 

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Head of Human Resources at An Garda Siochana John Barrett at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee yesterday

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].

Previously: What’s Another Smear

‘A Bank Account In Dublin Under The Control Of A Former Senior Garda Officer’

‘I Was Counselled To Be Very Careful’