From top: yesterday’s Sunday Times; RTÉ broadcaster Seán O’Rourke and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan gave almost an hour-long interview to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke.
Her interview followed an article by John Mooney, in yesterday’s Sunday Times, about a 42-page audit carried out by the Garda Internal Audit Section (GIAS) on the Garda College in Templemore.
The report examined financial transactions at the college from 2009 to 2015. It did examine some transactions from previous years but was prevented from carrying out a full audit of those years because of a lack of documentation.
The audit’s results were given to Ms O’Sullivan and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald last September.
In the Sunday Times, Mr Mooney reported:
“It discovered that gardai had rented out land owned by the Office of Public Works to farmers, earning €129,903 over four years, and used the cash to finance garda societies. Meanwhile, European grants were placed on deposit and earned interest payments, in contravention of fiscal rules.
Auditors discovered that 37% of all expenditure linked to the college’s laundry service account in 2008 had nothing to do with laundry. Instead €7,231 was spent on meals and entertainment, €2,150 was given to parish clergy, €1,040 to the golf society and €300 spent on jewellery and gifts. A loan facility was also operated from the account with amounts of up to €500 being borrowed and repaid.
The audit discovered 50 bank accounts in total and said the current system of banking had resulted in a “non-transparent system of accounting”.
In many cases, auditors were unable to obtain supporting documentation to explain payments. There was nothing to explain transactions linked to the Garda College GAA account, although auditors found it had received public funds from the laundry account and a restaurant account.
Investigators also discovered that gardai held directorships in Garda College Sportsfield Ltd, without receiving permission from the justice minister or disclosing their interest, as is required under ethics legislation. What was “essentially a land-holding company” provided €100,000 to the Garda boat club in four transactions between 2000 and 2003.
Further to this…
During this morning’s interview, Mr O’Rourke and Ms O’Sullivan spoke about the audit for roughly 90 seconds.
This is what was said…
Sean O’Rourke: “Templemore, and an audit down there, I mean, that seems to be pretty chaotic.”
Noirin O’Sullivan: “Well, again, if you, it’s an internal audit report so obviously, it’s something that we identified ourselves which is, as you know, is the purpose of the internal audit. But it spans back over 20 years. It’s legacy issue. I suppose it’s accounting practices that wouldn’t meet today’s standards of accounting practices. What is very important is that in the internal audit report, there are a number of recommendations to bring the practice up to par with today’s practice and that, those recommendations are being implemented.”
O’Rourke: “But things like misuse of money, renting out land to farmers, throwing money at – well, I won’t say throwing money, but giving money to societies and other things – I mean was there just too much local discretion, to put it at its kindest, exercised?”
O’Sullivan: “Well, my information, and what I’m advised is, that there is no misappropriation of money or misuse of public money so I think that’s very important. As I say, it is accounting practices that, by today’s standards, would not be acceptable. But it does span back and they are legacy issues.”
O’Rourke: “Coming back to the changes you want to bring about and you talk a lot about wanting to change the culture in the Garda Síochána…”
O’Rourke: Can I ask you in a general way. Do you believe that you, Commissioner, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan will be vindicated by the O’Neill inquiry and indeed by the GSOC one?
O’Sullivan: “You know, obviously I, and An Garda Siochana, has always cooperated fully with the inquiry and it will reach its findings. And, you know, again, as I say, I’m satisfied that the process will establish the truth. But I think what’s important to look at is, while that process is going on, what have we done, what have we actually done to make the culture and the environment more supportive. So, we’ve put a lot of structures in place. As I said earlier, we’re learning all of the time.”
O’Rourke: “Ok, but just before we leave that. Now I’ll move toward general points. You can’t prejudge the inquiry, ok, it has to take its course. But you, can you categorically state that you personally played absolutely no role in attempting to discredit Sergeant [Maurice] McCabe?”
O’Sullivan: “Well, I’m on record as saying, from the outset when these issues were raised, that I have absolutely no knowledge, nor was I privy to any campaign to undermine any individual in An Garda Siochana.”
O’Rourke: “You use that word ‘privy to’ quite a lot. And I’m just wondering and, again, forgive me if I sound overly cynical or sceptical, but sometimes people put a formula or words together that sometimes can be designed to conceal as much as it reveals. Now ‘privy to’ – what does that mean?”
O’Sullivan: “I think the, it means, okay, let me translate into what I mean by it, certainly I’ve no knowledge of any campaign to undermine any individual and nor would I take part in any campaign to undermine any individual.”
O’Rourke: “Do you think, as a result of change in culture, that things will work out well for whistleblowers? That they will be seen to have done their job, maybe in a way that is difficult but their careers won’t have suffered and they’ll be proven to be, men and women who will be admired and promoted as a result of doing the right thing?”
O’Sullivan: “Well I think it’s important that, as I say, that we do create a culture and an environment. So, for example, one of the things, the first things I did was, I invited in Transparency International because, again, this is very new and I know that other agencies are looking to An Garda Siochana at the moment for what we have done and what we are doing. We were fortunate as well that the Policing Authority, they were established, looked at our protected disclosures policy and obviously there are different people with different perspectives on the authority and they were able to input into what is now a revised policy but also Transparency International, both as an employer, but also to help us. So, to help us as an employer, to create the environment, but also to help us put the structures and the necessary structures in place. Because the numbers that we have are very small but nevertheless, as I say, we have learned very significant lessons…”
Listen back in full here
The Code of Ethics for the Garda Síochána can be read here
Previously: You’ll Get Nothing From Me