From top: Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan; Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy
Almost three weeks ago.
At a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.
Head of Internal Audit at An Garda Siochana Niall Kelly – whose interim audit report into financial irregularities at the Garda College was completed in draft form and given to the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan in September 2016 – told the PAC his team had started “two specific audits on EU-funded projects and programmes” concerning the Garda College.
Readers may note that, in his final interim report which was published in February of this year, one of Mr Kelly’s recommendations was that the Garda College return the interest gained from EU funds held on deposit.
“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.”
Readers should also note that, in respect of the EU Project and CEPOL accounts, audits of these accounts were not sent to Mr Kelly while he was doing his overall audit. He said:
“It is a basic tenant of European Financial Controls that members States cannot benefit from interest payments on European Funds held on deposit…In the course of this audit GIAS [Garda Internal Audit Section] was informed that audits of these European Projects had been conducted however these audit reports were not forwarded to GIAS. It is important that GIAS has sight of all audit reports conducted by external auditors and that the Statutory Garda Audit Committee is fully informed.”
Readers may also recall how, at the same PAC meeting three weeks ago, Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy asked Mr Kelly about the possibility of money being sent from the Garda College in Templemore to a Dublin bank account 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”.
It’s been reported that 5% of CEPOL monies were placed in a AIB account in Cabra, with this EU money reportedly used for entertainment purposes.
It’s also emerged that the signatory of this account was a retired senior Garda. It’s also been reported that some payments initially lodged into the Cabra account were subsequently transferred to St Raphael’s Garda Credit Union.
Mr Kelly believes there is sufficient suspicion that fraud may have been committed in regards to these matters.
In turn, he drew up a draft report on the matter for the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan who, on Monday, referred the matter to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission [GSOC], thus the matter was largely out of bounds for questioning at Tuesday’s PAC meeting.
Readers will note that, 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.
Ms O’Sullivan told the PAC on Tuesday that Mr Kelly has reported the matter to OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office.
But an unnamed Garda also contacted OLAF. Broadsheet understands that this Garda contacted OLAF before Mr Kelly.
At Tuesday’s PAC meeting, TDs attempted to ask questions about the Cabra account, including Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy.
The exchanges included the following:
Catherine Murphy: “Just to pick up on the account, the Cabra account. It was the Cabra account?”
Noirin O’Sullivan: “Yes, yes, deputy.”
Murphy: “Was it an account that was a personal account or a Garda account?”
O’Sullivan: “Again, without pre-empting what the investigation is going to uncover, my understanding was that it was a Garda account.”
Murphy: “Right. OK. And the money involved, because, or the suspicion of money involved…”
Alan Kelly: “Was it always a Garda account? Was it always held in the name of An Garda Siochana?”
O’Sullivan: “My understanding is yes, deputy.”
Kelly: “…that or other related accounts were never in the name of somebody who is no longer a member of the force?”
O’Sullivan: “I don’t know, we would have to check with the head of internal audit [Niall Kelly].”
Murphy: “So, I mean, it was Mr Kelly who was the head of internal audit who notified you, so he would have indicated roughly an amount because, obviously…what range is that in?”
O’Sullivan: “I think, deputy, that at its height, or at its peak, it would have been in the region of €90,000-plus and then, all the way down to maybe €5,000.”
Murphy: “Right so, there’s a range.”
O’Sullivan: “That’s roughly…”
Murphy: “And what timeline are we talking about?”
O’Sullivan: “Again, I just have to confer with some of my colleagues, just from memory… my understanding is that the account was opened in 1999 and closed in 2010.”
Murphy: “So it’s not, it could be a range of different people?”
Murphy: “And, I mean the level of offence that there’s a suspicion of, is that on the serious end?
O’Sullivan: “Well, deputy, at this point, I don’t know. That’s where the investigation will establish if any offence, like, what Mr Kelly has reported is that he has reasonable cause to suspect that there may be, so potentially, there may be criminal activity, fraudulent activity around the account. But that will be a matter for the Ombudsman Commission [GSOC] to establish.”
Murphy: “Ok, now, is this exclusively around European, the European money?”
O’Sullivan: “My understanding is that yes, but again, deputy, I just to be very careful. I’ve given you what I got as a preliminary report from the head of internal audit [Niall Kelly]. I do not know the facts and I think it would be wrong of me to pre-empt what the investigation will establish.”
Murphy: “There’s two ends to this account. There’s the money that’s controlled by an account in Cabra. But how it got there. And obviously it would have been… I raised a question here a couple of weeks ago, about money coming from Templemore to a Dublin account that was controlled by a senior member of the force and I’m presuming that that is what we’re talking about here.”
“When I asked Mr Kelly, he said that he wasn’t happy to discuss it at the meeting here a couple of weeks ago because it was the subject of an audit and, indeed, again I asked Mr [Donal] O Cualain last week about inquiries other than the internal audit and, essentially, obviously, we’ve progressed to that within less than a week.
“So, obviously the money would have had to come from Templemore. And there’s a number of different accounts there so somebody in Templemore would be transferring money to an account. And that would be straightforward, would it? In the normal course of events, that would be straightforward. Would money not have been that was allocated for the purpose of the European funding, would that not have been exclusive to Templemore? Why would it have gone to the Cabra account?”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy, I’m not in a position to answer those questions because obviously they are facts that will have to be established in the investigation. And, I think to be fair to the committee, I just want to be very clear, like what the internal auditor has told us at the moment, and if I could just quote from his audit report again, that he: “considers that there’s sufficient suspicion that fraud may have been committed”. Now, that means that the matter needs to be investigated to established.”
Alan Kelly: “[inaudible] prima facie?”
O’Sullivan: “No, he does not.”
Kelly: “Ok, did he use them orally with you?”
O’Sullivan: “No, he did not.”
O’Sullivan: “They’re his exact wordings and that’s why I think it’s really important and we’re talking about a potential suspicious activity on an account that may potentially lead to investigators to establish that something has happened. So I think that we have to be very, very careful in terms of the context that we’re putting on this. This is at the very early stages. It has not even, I don’t even want to say that the Ombudsman Commission [GSOC], they’re only considering the matter and, to be fair, the Ombudsman Commission got the matter yesterday.
“Of course, we remain there to assist the Ombudsman Commission in whatever way possible, including the expertise available throughout the organisation. Commissioner, I don’t want to be unfair to you but I’ve got to say, the timing of the referral [to GSOC] yesterday, given that this a subject that, over the last two weeks, has come into play here. And I’m very pleased that something is being looked into by the appropriate body but I have to say that the timing appears incredibly convenient given that you’re in front of us today and it does put out of bounds discussions on some of the matters that we were trying to explore.”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy I certainly, even if I was here without having referred this matter to the Ombudsman Commission yesterday, I wouldn’t be in a position to talk about these matters, they’d still be under internal audit investigation or external investigation. So under no circumstances was this matter referred to anything other than taking appropriate or required action when something like this has brought to our attention.”
Murphy: “I want to move on to another aspect and that’s in relation to the credit union and the use of the credit union to bounce – or not bounce – but to move money backwards and forwards. Now, there’s, it was moved in from the Restaurant Account and then it was moved back when there was a shortage of money and it seems quite an internal thing, given that the credit union is obviously a Garda credit union, there’s guards on it and there’s a potential of, there’s the potential of conflicts of interest.
“Do you have any concerns in relation to the credit union being used, was there any… did you look at that specifically? Is there any concerns in relation to the use of the credit union?”
O’Sullivan: “The credit union, deputy, is an independent financial institution, it’s a separate entity entirely from An Garda Siochana and it would have the same status as a financial institution.”
Murphy: “And who’s on the board of the credit union?”
O’Sullivan: “I’d be very frank. I’m not currently aware but we can certainly, I’m sure it’s available in the public domain who’s on the board, I don’t know.”
Murphy: “But they’re likely have been drawn from the Garda Siochana.”
O’Sullivan: “Not necessarily, no, deputy, not necessarily.”
Murphy: “I actually think that it might be quite useful, given that the Central Bank have a regulatory oversight there and I think it would…”
Alan Kelly: “Good point, deputy…”
Murphy: “...be quite useful to ask the Central Bank to have a look at this particular, because they have a function in that regard.”
Murphy: “When I asked Mr Kelly a couple of weeks ago about the money transferred to a Dublin account, he said that he wasn’t at liberty to talk about that because he was auditing it at the moment. What other streams of audit are under way at the moment? He did say to us that it could take up to two years to finalise all the work that was, that was produced as a consequence of the interim report and the matters contained in it. What other streams are being considered or being audited?”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy, we can find that out for you in a moment, if you wish?
[confers with colleagues]
O’Sullivan: “Sorry, deputy, I feel I’m just been relaying messages, excuse me for the delay. What we understand is, what I understand from my colleague is Mr Kelly has a number of streams of work under way. He was focusing and prioritising on the one that he has just completed which he has just delivered to us yesterday and he has a number of other streams which he’s going to decide upon now that that one is out of the way. And he will decide on a priority and, obviously, he will make the audit committee aware of that.”
Murphy: “So, the priority of those would be the suspicion of something that is likely to be ongoing or would be in same family of things as the one that he has just completed?”
O’Sullivan: “Not necessarily suspicious deputy. I think the focus is on ensuring that the audit process is carried out thoroughly and robustly so not necessarily where there is any suspicion but there will be a prioritisation and that, as you know, the work plan is agreed in conjunction with the deputy commissioner on my left and, also, the audit committee.”
Murphy: “There was a number of different audit committees since the function of Accounting Officer transferred from the Department [of Justice] to the Commissioner. There was one from 2006 to 2009, there was another one from 2009 to 2013, there was another one after that and I think there’s probably a new one now. Can I ask that: was there any member of the, specifically to 2006 to 2009, audit committee – was anyone on that specifically a member of a signature on the bank account that’s under investigation?”
O’Sullivan: “I don’t know deputy, we’d have to check for you, we can come back to the committee, I don’t know. And I think we won’t know precisely who all of the signatories were until the investigation or the examination is completed but, certainly, we can come back to the committee on it. I don’t know.”
Murphy: “Could I, could we ask that you come back quickly on that?”
O’Sullivan: “As quickly as we’re able because as I say it’ll take the investigation to identify in fact who the signatories are but we’ll do our very best to come back as quickly as possible.”
Murphy: “Yeah, and I presume there’s an understanding that this kind of happens at both ends, it would have to happen at both ends, presumably, it’s not just the bank account that’s being looked at, is it? It is, is it how the money got to the bank account?”
O’Sullivan: “Yes, so it’ll look at any transactions operating in or out of that bank account is my understanding but again I want to be careful: I don’t want to pre-empt the examination or investigation that’s going to be, that’s being considered by the Ombudsman Commission at the moment. And, as I said this morning, obviously we remain in a position to assist in whatever way we can, so I don’t want to preempt what the nature or extent of their investigation will be.”
Murphy: “And when you refer something to GSOC, do you get any, I mean I know whatever time it takes to do an investigation it takes but is there a timeframe that you have an expectation that they work within? Is it timely in other words?”
O’Sullivan: “Yes, my experience is that it is timely. There are updates given under Section 103 of the Garda Siochana Act and the process works well.”
Murphy: “I’m just going to leave it at that.”
Josepha Madigan: “Thank you for your forbearance, Commissioner. First of all, my understanding is that there is a retired member whose a signatory on the account in Cabra but I know you’ve made your comments in relation to that.”
Watch back in full here