From top: Templemore College; the Public Accounts Committee this afternoon, from left (front row( Alan Kelly (Lab) Deputy Chair, Sean Fleming (FF), Chairman. Back row, from left: Shane Cassells (FF), Catherine Murphy (SD), David Cullinane (SF), Bobby Alward (FF), Mary Lou McDonald (SF), Catherine Connolly (Ind) and Peter Burke (FG); Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan
The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee’s report into the Garda Training College at Templemore was published this afternoon.
The PAC report finds Garda management failed to rectify financial situation at the Garda training college :despite numerous opportunities to do so”.
The report says it was “unacceptable” that the C&AG was not informed about financial issues there until ten months after the Garda Commissioner was told about
…and the assertion made by Nóirín O’Sullivan to the Comptroller and Auditor General on 31 July 2015 that she was disclosing all relevant information was “not accurate”
…The PAC says there is a notable absence of common purpose between members of senior management in the force.
The PAC concludes that delays in getting the Department of Justice to sit on a steering group examining the finances at Templemore “does not support the Garda Commissioner’s view that she took decisive action.”
Head of HR at An Garda Siochana, John Barrett, speaking at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in May
Earlier this week.
The head of HR at An Garda Siochana John Barrett wrote an 88-page document to the Public Accounts Committee to assist it further in its inquiries into the financial irregularities at the Garda College in Templemore.
He was subjected to a “whispering campaign”, with his “reward for my persistence” in highlighting garda college financial concerns being “spurious criminal allegations” that he breached the Official Secrets Act by keeping notes on what he found;
That one senior garda sent him documents at the time of his discoveries about the garda college “to suggest that I was aware of all the issues at play and that I did nothing for a number of months”, a claim against Mr Barret that has been proven to be untrue;
That Ms O’Sullivan’s PAC evidence about when she was informed about the garda college concerns is contradicted by clear, private records from the period kept by Mr Barrett;
That garda head of legal affairs Ken Ruane and director of communications Andrew McLindon were subjected to “revised reporting arrangements” and different management structures after highlighting the college issue alongside Mr Barrett.
In a separate section of his 80-page letter, Mr Barrett also called for a forensic examination of the St Raphael’s Garda Credit Union since 1999, which he said is needed to uncover whether EU funds and other money related to the garda college passed through accounts.
He concluded by quoting a book called Lies In The Mirror by current Disclosures Tribunal chair Mr Justice Peter Charleton, in which the retired judge writes that “deceit is the primary instrument for doing evil”.
Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and Sinn Fein TD David Cullinan in the Public Accounts Committee
At the Public Accounts Committee.
Garda Commissioner Nóiriín O’Sullivan is continuing to be questioned in relation to the financial irregularities at the Garda College.
Readers will recall how Ms O’Sullivan has maintained that she first became aware of these issues on July 27, 2015.
And that the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy was not told until May 31, 2016 – by head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly.
Mr McCarthy told the PAC previously, and this morning, that the matters should have been referred to him immediately.
It has now emerged Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan sent a letter to the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy on July 31, 2015.
From this morning’s PAC…
David Cullinane: “I just want to get to a letter that you did send Mr McCarthy and he furnished this committee with the letter. The 31st of July, 2015. Was that before or after you were made aware of the irregularities at the Garda Training College?”
Noirin O’Sullivan: “It was four days after.”
Cullinane: “And was this a letter of representation or understanding, Mr McCarthy?”
Seamus McCarthy: “A letter of representation.”
Cullinane: “And what is a letter of representation?”
McCarthy: “It’s a letter that we seek from an Accounting Officer at the end of the aduit to basically confirm to us that all accounting records have been made available and that all information that should be brought to our attention has been.”
Cullinane: “And I’m reading from it her, Commissioner. It says:
‘I can confirm to the best of my knowledge and believe, and having made appropriate enquiries of my officials at An Garda Siochana, the following representations, which are given to you in connection with your audit of the Appropriation Account for Vote 20 (An Garda Siochana) for the year…
‘I am satisfied that the expenditures and receipts enclosed in the Appropriation Account for the Vote have been applied only to the extent and the purposes indicated…
‘All the accounting records have been provided to you for the purpose of your audit and all the transactions undertaken by An Garda Siochana have been properly reflected and recorded…
‘I have disclosed to you all the instances of loss, fraud or irregularity are known to have occurred or have been reported in the year.’
“So irregularities were reported to you and here you are on the 31st of July, 2015, sending a letter to the Comptroller and Auditor General saying that you have disclosed all instances of irregularities. You did not, Commissioner, disclose all instances of irregularities.”
O’Sullivan: “Well, deputy, what I had been informed on the 27th, on the evening of the 27th. What I was informed was, in the report from Mr Ruane that basically Mr Barrett had identified a number of issues. The nature of…”
Cullinane: “No, no, sorry Commissioner, that’s not the case, I asked you earlier on and you were very clear to this committee that the first time you became aware of irregularities in the Garda Training College in July 2015. You were briefed on the issues, you had a meeting with Mr Barrett and others I take it aswell. But you were most certainly aware of the issues involved
O’Sullivan: “Deputy, can I be very clear on what I knew. What I knew was that Mr Barrett had raised certain matters with Mr Ruane, our Head of Legal Affairs. Mr Ruane had reported those matters to the Deputy Commissioner Strategy Governance. That was on the 27th. On the 28th I got a report – so three days before this letters was issued – I got a report from the Deputy Commissioner. I caused enquiries to be made in my office…”
Cullinane: “With respect, you’re counting down the clock..”
HSE general director Tony O’Brien before the PAC on February 2, 2016
Officials from the Health Service Executive, including HSE director general Tony O’Brien, will appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in Committee Room 3.
Ahead of this, one of the ‘Grace’ whistleblowers has written a lengthy piece in The Irish Examiner in which she highlights inconsistencies in public statements made by Mr O’Brien and the HSE about the ‘Grace’ case in relation to:
– The HSE’s three-year delay in seeking clearance from the gardai to publish the Conal Devine report and what prompted it to finally seek that clearance.
– Whether or not people who were involved in the Grace case are still working within the HSE.
– Procurement issues relating to the two reports, Conal Devine report and the Resilience Ireland report, commissioned into the foster home.
From top: Independent TD Catherine Connolly; Nama board members Oliver Ellingham, Willie Soffe and Brian McEnery, at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee today
The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee is continuing to question Nama officials in relation to the sale of Project Eagle.
The three members of Nama before the PAC today are non executive director at NAMA Oliver Ellingham, and Nama board members Willie Soffe and Brian McEnery.
Mr Soffe is also chair of Nama’s credit committee while Mr Ellingham is chair of Nama’s risk management committee.
Mr McEnery is chair of Nama’s audit committee and a former member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee (NIAC) – alongside Frank Cushnahan who was heard receiving £40,000, in bundles of two, from a Nama client during a secret recording broadcast on a BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight programme last month.
Readers may recall how, on Friday, a former member of Nama’s NIAC Brian Rowntree went before the Public Accounts Committee and spoke of the NIAC seeing a University of Ulster study which contained both commercially sensitive and confidential information in relation to Nama.
Mr Rowntree said:
“This refers to a piece of work, an evidence based piece of work undertaken by a university who were doing land assembly analysis and before they’d even undertake or engage with NAMA they had whole stage of caveats around the confidentiality of the information and this was explained to the committee, now if that’s not commercially sensitive, I don’t know what is. This data not only had the location and types of property, this data also had details of planning permissions, current, and about to expire and potential for renewal. it also had details of housing and residential need overlaying on top of it, it also had details in consolidated form of holdings by other banks. So one would have a got a picture of the complete land bank of Northern Ireland, and one one have looked at the opportunity locations within that portfolio.”
“…The information was provided to the university by NAMA, so it was shown as NAMA properties and there was a separate section of the report which was privileged to NAMA which showed the NAMA impact analysis across all those platforms..”
Further to this, earlier today Independent Catherine Connolly asked Mr Soffe if he disagreed with Mr Rowntree’s claims.
In addition, Ms Connolly questioned Nama’s decision not to tell Lazard – which was hired to oversee the sale of Project Eagle – about the ‘fixer fee’ arrangement whereby 15million pounds was to be divided between law firm Brown Rudnick, Belfast solicitors Tughans and Frank Cushnahan if Pimco successfully bought the Northern Ireland loan book.
After Pimco’s withdrawal from the sale – following the fixer fee arrangement becoming known – Cerberus bought the loan book as Brown Rudnick and Tughans continued to be involved in the sale.
Catherine Connolly: “In relation to the [University of] Ulster research. And Mr Rowntree was very clear about that: that it was a high-level piece of research and you’ve confirmed that to day and there were many presentations and he said that was potentially confidential information that somebody could make use of. To summarise him, that’s what he said. You probably listened carefully to his evidence so you know better than I did. So, are you disagreeing with him on that?”
Soffe: “Well, to explain, I mean the information in relation to planning zoning is available in planning offices all over…”
Connolly: “I understand that, I’ve been 17 years in local authority, I head you say that: I’m asking you a question…”
Talk over each other
Connolly: “No my question is: are you disagreeing with Mr Rowntree? That’s simply my question.”
Soffe: “I am…I, I…”
Connolly: “Good…that’s okay..”
Soffe: “I don’t see … there was nothing… anything particularly confidential about it that was of benefit. The same information could be found by anyone who wanted to inquire about developmental… was possible…”
Connolly: “That’s okay…”
Soffe: “On particular occasions…”
Connolly: “That’s okay. In relation to Lazard and Lazard was appointed in January 2014 and Lazard were given a verbal briefing to the sales process, isn’t that right? There was no written document? It was a verbal briefing? And..is that correct?”
Soffe: “Yeah, well we were..they were to come back with..”
Talk over each other
Connolly: “You didn’t give them a written document. You gave them a verbal briefing. Okay. And then the Comptroller and Auditor General has raised concerns in relation to what you relied on – the assurance from Lazard and today, you’ve relied on that again and Mr Soffe, in particular, you’ve come back and you’ve said that Lazard reassured you that the process was….”
Soffe: “Competitive tension to the very end.”
Connolly: “Okay. Now, you never told Lazard that Pimco had withdrawn in the circumstances that they had withdrawn.”
Soffe: “It was not relevant for them. They were gone out of the process and like, you know, there was no reason to discuss the, to discuss it with them. Pimco wanted to go away quietly and they were allowed to do that.”
Connolly: “Well, they certainly didn’t go away quietly because we’re talking about it now in 2016.”
Soffe: [Lazard] gave us an absolute assurance that there was potential, tension to the end, competitive tension right to the very end and that we were achieving more than our minimum price.”
Connolly: “You’re not listening to my question, sorry now. The Comptroller and Auditor General has raised an issue in relation to the nature of the assurance given by Lazard. And he says that Lazard had only limited information. So he raises a concern about that assurance. Do you accept that concern?”
Oliver Ellingham: “I think if we were to phrase that, we were happy that the assurance we had from Lazard, for a commercial transaction, was adequate.”
Ellingham: “As a board, we were faced with, we’re selling some assets and I’m sure any party would be able to find reasons why an advisor needed to be given lots more information to give us an opinion. What we were asking for, was an opinion from Lazard as to whether we were selling in a competitive process and getting fair price.”
Connolly: “How could you possibly rely on an assurance where you’ve given limited information. Where you know that Pimco have withdrawn? Sorry now, and then you come back and you even today tell us that you’re reassured by that assurance?”
Ellingham: “What we were trying to do was to sell some assets for a particular sum of money….”
Ellingham: “...in order to pay down debt. And therefore, we had an assurance that provided we got over 1.3million [sic] then that was the right price in the marketplace and the buyer was capable of buying it. We were not, for us, it was a commercial transaction and for Lazard to opine on the mass of the situation, that’s not, we didn’t think it was relevant for them to be told why Pimco had withdrawn.”
Connolly: “Well, certainly, to me, I’m no expert and I’d say to the ordinary person watching or listening, I don’t think…I’m not reassured. You give limited information to get the answer that you want. You gave limited information to get precisely the answer you want, which is reassurance that the competition is competitive when there’s only one remaining bidder.”
Soffe: “Well, there were two to the end and as we have said, that is not uncommon. Even if you look at, processes, like Project Eagle, there were two at the very end and that’s quite normal…”
Connolly: “It could well be but this is not a normal process, this is not a normal situation. You’re now aware that there were success fees. You’re fully aware of all that and you still don’t pass on that information to Lazard.”
Soffe: “That was dealt with and out of the way and it had nothing to do with the remaining process.”
Catherine Murphy, Social Democrats TD for North Kildare (top) and former Northern Ireland Advisory Committee member Mr Brian Rowntree (above)
Yesterday, at the Public Accounts Committee hearing on Project Eagle,, Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy questioned Brian Rowntree, who was a member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee alongside Frank Cushnahan.
Last month BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme broadcast a secret audio recording of Mr Cushnahan receiving £40,000 – in bundles of two – from a Nama client.
A report by the The Comptroller and Auditor General found the Northern Ireland loan book may have been undersold to the tune of hundreds of millions of Euro.
Nama chairman Frank Daly wrote in the Irish Times:
“Neither Frank Cushnahan nor any other external member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee had access to confidential Nama information that could have been passed to any bidder.”
From the PAC hearing:
Catherine Murphy: “Can I just go back to the point that was made, I just want to expand on it a little bit, and I am referencing the Northern Ireland Finance Committee, page 17, the review on the sale of NAMA properties in Northern Ireland and the paragraph that was referenced in the BBC Spotlight show, I’ll go on –
“Mr Brian Rowntree, stated that the NIAC members had access to information which was of a ‘commercially sensitive nature’ and which offered ‘commercial opportunity’ and would have been of some value to a bidder for Project Eagle. This is of particular significance as it appears to contradict the position adopted by NAMA to date”.
What was the nature of the information? Because a lot of what you said in your opening statement tends to say there was a lot of general information, so what was the nature of the information that would given someone a commercial opportunity?”
Brian Rowntree: “I wouldn’t have made that statement on Spotlight programme if I hadn’t been affirmed that I was in a room where I had discussions around commercially sensitive information. I wouldn’t have gone public by stating that on a BBC spotlight programme. This refers to a piece of work, an evidence based piece of work undertaken by a university who were doing land assembly analysis and before they’d even undertake or engage with NAMA they had whole stage of caveats around the confidentiality of the information and this was explained to the committee, now if that’s not commercially sensitive, i don’t know what is. This data not only had the location and types of property, this data also had details of planning permissions, current, and about to expire and potential for renewal. it also had details of housing and residential need overlaying on top of it, it also had details in consolidated form of holdings by other banks. So one would have a got a picture of the complete land bank of Northern Ireland, and one one have looked at the opportunity locations within that portfolio.”
Catherine Murphy: “And would have some of those have been properties with loans in NAMA?”
Brian Rowntree: “Yes, I think from memory, NAMA would have accounted for 30%.”
Catherine Murphy: “And would that have been identified that they were properties with with a Nama loan?”
Brian Rowntree: “The information was provided to the university by NAMA, so it was shown as NAMA properties and there was a separate section of the report which was privileged to NAMA which showed the NAMA impact analysis across all those platforms
Catherine Murphy: “I want to refer to page 132 of the C&AG report, just at the end of it it says:
“With regard to the proposed acquisition of the NI Debtors Portfolio, PIMCO confirmed the following: They have not completed any due diligence or engaged directly with any NAMA debtors in this regard PIMCO’s analysis was conducted by way of reverse engineering NAMA’s Balance Sheet and cross-referencing the publicly available information on NAMA’s portfolio”
I am just curious, because its jumping out at me, could they have put together that portfolio? is that credible? Is that believable that they could put together a portfolio by reverse engineering on the NAMA balance sheet and cross referencing other information or does it indicate there was other information?”
Brian Rowntree: “I can’t comment, I wasn’t part of the discussions at the main NAMA board. What it does say to me is that they had some process outlined as reverse engineering, they would have had some underpinning intelligence, be it some intelligence of their own or evidence based to look at a reverse engineering component.”
Catherine Murphy: “The approach appears to have come almost packaged to NAMA via the two Ministers for Finance (Michael Noonan and Sammy Wilson), it looks to me, if I am reading this right, that there was significant amount of information in advance of engagement with NAMA, in putting together this portfolio.”
Brian Rowntree: “Well purely from a commercial context, from my own past commercial experience I would certainly not have bid for something blind. I have never known anyone to bid for any business oppertunity blind. I don’t know what their evidence base was but that’s where we go back to the controls and corporate governance provisions, those would outline and underpin the evidence provisons that supported the bid process.”
The director general of the HSE Tony O’Brien is appearing this afternoon before the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the abusive foster home in Waterford.
Earlier Fine Gael’s Waterford TD John Deasy repeatedly asked him if people who were involved in the foster home are still working in the HSE.
Mr Deasy also asked him what, if any, disciplinary action has been taken against those people.
Mr O’Brien repeatedly stated that he was hampered in answering questions at PAC because of a request by An Garda Síochána not to go into the detail of two reports on the home.
John Deasy: “Cut to the chase here. Outside of Garda investigations, outside of Commissions of Investigations, there are people still in the system, whom by that I mean the HSE, who have graduated to other organisations dealing with child protection. And their work and their involvement in this, in some cases, goes back to the 1990s. They’re still in the system and they’re still dealing with children, making very serious decisions at a very senior level when it comes to children. What are you doing about that? What are you doing…no, I actually want you to answer this, considering you’re the Director General of the organisation. What are you doing? You must have concerns that if there are people in there who are responsible for this, for the neglect, as you put it, the poor care, the failings, I mean surely the most basic and obvious step would be to have those people step aside until any investigation is concluded. Because the public interest dimension of this now requires, in my opinion, those people to step aside while an investigation is concluded.
“I mean what’s not tolerable, in the public, at this point, is for those people who are responsible for this to continue in their jobs based on the fact that they have still senior positions dealing with child protection in this country. If your organisation doesn’t understand that, you understand nothing. And that’s really, I think, the kernel of this today. And I think that you probably should have addressed it in your opening statement and I’m surprised you didn’t. Before you leave these committee rooms, I think you’re going to have to address that and satisfy the members of this committee that the individuals involved, responsible for this, account for themselves. That’s critical, it’s necessary it’s obvious.”
Tony O’Brien: “In relation to the events of the 1990s, the individuals concerned are no longer in public service. In relation to subsequent events, the Conall Devine Report was commissioned specifically to identify…”
Deasy: “Are you sure not all of them are in public service? Are you absolutely sure about that?”
O’Brien: “The three who made the decision that I referred to…”
Deasy: “That’s not what you said, I’m not talking about that specific decision, I’m talking about people in the HSE and the health board who are involved in that foster home, who made decisions around that foster home – they’re still in public service, correct?”
O’Brien: “Let me answer the question.”
Deasy: “No, no, answer that question.”
O’Brien: “If I had been unclear in my first answer, I need to restate it, I hope that you will allow me to do that?”
O’Brien: “I referred in my first answer, when you asked me what I was apologising for, to a specific decision that was made to leave Grace in that foster home in the 1990s. That was made by a three-person panel, for want of a better word, and those three person are no longer in the public service. So just to be clear about that. The Conall Devine Report was commissioned specifically in order to lay out in full, unvarnished detail who did what and when and would be the basis upon which any action in the disciplinary space would be taken. From the outset of its commencement there was close liaison with An Garda Síochána and it was always understood and intended that the report would be published and available for whatever action may be necessary. However, since its conclusion, in 2012, it has not been possible to use it for that purpose and that is why no disciplinary action has been proceeded with on foot of the Conall Devine Report…”
Deasy: “That’s not sufficient. I understand, this has gone on for 30 years.”
Deasy: “With regard to the reports, what’s curious for people is the invocation of one of the health acts so that the minister and junior minister involved can finally request the reports – finally – after all this time. And it’s curious and problematic for us that, after years, months, of being told there’s no way we can read these reports, they finally have the reports. And all they had to do is read and act and, say, well, the definition of the act does allow us to get these reports. You’ve basically, you’ve got to let me finish. Again, the kernel of this is, and there is the public interest dimension of this, now that you’ve admitted the mistakes and failings and we know the detail involved and the allegations. And we know that the people who are still within the system in many cases, some of them have moved on to other organisations dealing with child protection. The reality is that a Garda investigation, a previous one, collapsed. This may not go anywhere, the second one. And a Commission of Investigation takes time, people retire, they leave the system, the people who are actually charged with making these mistakes, they’ve access to files, emails, they’re in situ, they’re sitting on potentially evidence, and that’s a big issue. If you’re so frustrated legally, if you’re, ‘my god I can’t do anything, these people, they’, you know. Well, have you asked anyone if there needs to be a change of course with regard to your powers internally? I mean if it’s the case that you’re going crazy at not being able to deal with this, and not being actually able to make these people account for themselves, have you just given up and left it at that, is that effectively the answer to the committee here today?”
O’Brien: “No, deputy it’s not….I’m not stonewalling you. I’m prepared to answer any question I can that doesn’t involve me effectively publishing the two reports that An Garda Síochána have asked me not to do. So I want to be clear, that’s the only reason they’re not published.”
Deasy: “Now that you’ve read the reports, Mr O’Brien, do you have any concerns that the people involved making these mistakes – neglect, poor care – that you’ve described yourself in writing to this committee, are still involved in child protection?”
O’Brien: “There are a wide number of people whose actions are detailed in the report, it’s clear from my reading of the report that there were many instances, missed opportunities but not all of the people covered were on, shall we say, the downside of that. I am concerned that there is an ongoing delay to enable us to publish the reports which would enable each of those involved, each of the people implicated as it were, to have an opportunity to answer what it says in the report, so that those do have something to account for, can account for it and that those who are blameless can have their name restored as it were.”
O’Brien: “There were occasions upon which there was information available which, had it been treated differently, would have removed Grace from that situation earlier that she was. And, on the basis of what is alleged to have happened, that she would have therefore been protected from the egregious abuse that is alleged to have occurred.”
Deasy: “These people are still working in the HSE?”
O’Brien: “There are many people who were involved in different ways in those processes. One of the features of this is the disagreements that occurred at different times as to what should have occurred and different people on different sides of those disagreements. Some of those people are still working in either the HSE or Tusla.”