WHY DIDN’T FITZGERALD ACT ON APRIL 12TH GARDA COLLEGE INFORMATION?
Labour TD for Tipperary and Vice-Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Alan Kelly has questioned why the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald didn’t act on information Deputy Kelly put on the Dáil record regarding the Garda Training College on April 12th.
Deputy Kelly said:
“I raised the issues surrounding the Garda Training College in the Dáil on April 12th. I raised very specific questions, many of which I repeated again along with my colleagues in the PAC meeting that I chaired last Thursday.
“I specifically asked the Commissioner in the PAC was she aware of the contents of my speech on April 12th in the Dail? The Garda Commissioner answered ‘No’ and the other witnesses indicated that they didn’t either. There were a number of witnesses from the Department of Justice also at the meeting.
“On one hand I find it incredible that the Garda Commissioner nor anyone in the Gardai working for her, were not paying attention to a debate in our national parliament on a motion of confidence in her position.
“However, even worse, I find it absolutely unbelievable that the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice didn’t raise the questions I put on the Dáil record regarding the audit of the Garda College with the Garda Commissioner in any way whatsoever?
“I was very specific in relation to the questions put on the record. I asked why the Commissioner having been advised to tell the Minister for Justice under Section 41 of the Garda Siochána Act 2005 about the financial irregularities in the Garda College, didn’t do so?
“I asked why the 2008 and 2010 reports weren’t given to the internal audit section of an Garda Siochána?
“I asked when did the Commissioner know about these reports? I asked when did the Department find out about the issues in Templemore?
“I raised the issue of OPW lands being rented by the Garda College? I asked numerous other questions.
“So am I to believe that these absolutely critical issues didn’t in any way raise questions for her or indeed her officials in her Department?
“That no one from the Department of Justice asked the Garda Commissioner or any of her team what was going on here?
“How is that credible or believable?
“And if that is the truth, it shows a level of naivety and incompetence incomparable to anything seen previously.
“So just to be sure, I wrote to the Minister asking her to answer all the questions I raised on April 12th. I wrote to her on Tuesday of last week. This was before the PAC meeting on Thursday. I haven’t received a reply or even an acknowledgement since.”
Notes to Editor
Dáil Éireann April 12th – TRANSCRIPT
Deputy Alan Kelly: We have a serious issue in regard to the Garda. My party has publically stated we do not have confidence in the Commissioner or senior management. Of the 145,000 wrongly-issued District Court summonses for fixed charge road traffic offences, 14,700 resulted in convictions and penalty points being issued. Those convictions and penalties will have to be rectified by the courts and set aside. There are gardaí who cannot stand over their roadside breath-testing regime. That has completely undermined our road safety strategy across the country. It is obvious that there was some form of incentivisation in this regard. That would explain why these figures were always exaggerated.
We all know what has happened to any gardaí who have spoken out. The y have been isolated and targeted. This seems to be a common theme under Garda management. Examples of gardaí who have spoken out are Sergeant Maurice McCabe and Garda Keith Harrison. I am glad that Garda Harrison is back to work since Monday of this week. Will the Tánaiste now pay him and every other whistleblower the back pay they are due?
The answers given by Garda management and from Commissioners do not stand up to scrutiny and have not for some time. There are many contradictions in various fora and many questions still to be answered. Garda management is not responding to the requirement to modernise how the Garda operates in areas across the board such as crime detection and being professional in how it does its business, how it manages its money and so on.
The Garda Inspectorate has described the Garda as an ineffective structure which is struggling to cope with modern demands. That says it all. The inspectorate’s recommendations accuse Garda management of inhi biting change. As all Members are aware, those recommendations are not being met. The Labour Party does not have confidence in Garda management. That is a big statement from our party, given the amount of legislative change we have tried to bring about in recent times.
There are too many bodies. They include the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, the Garda Inspectorate, the Policing Authority, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald. Some are in charge of complaints, some in charge of productivity and some in charge of performance but there does not seem to be any accountability. That needs to change. We need a Policing Authority that can tell the Commissioner what needs to be done, measure what is done and ensure it happens. The authority needs to have the power to do this to restore public confidence in An Garda Síochána.
I welcome the terms of reference that have been published recent ly by the Tánaiste but they need to be considered.
The audit of the Garda College in Templemore has not received as much attention as the matters I have spoken of thus far. Templemore is a great town with great people and the Garda College has done great service for this country. The Garda College has been very positive in how it has interacted with people in the town. There has been a huge amount of commentary on the results of the audit. We all know what the results have shown in regard to bank accounts, how the restaurant was run and a range of other issues. There must be a gain for the people of Templemore in regard to what will happen to the Garda College, which should be very positive. It needs investment. There are huge needs for the community in regard to legacy issues in Templemore and the land owned there.
There are some very interesting details yet to come out in regard to the mess of how the Garda accounts for its training college. Recently, I asked the Office of Public Works, OPW, what it owns in Templemore. As we all now know, it owns an estate there which it bought for future development. Interestingly, it received no rent from 2009 to 2013 from the lands it owns in Dromard and Clonmore. Guess what? The OPW is looking into it, believes that it will be collated by the Garda and that it will get the funds back appropriately. How in the name of God did the OPW not know that no rent that was being paid into its account for the lands it owned in Templemore? It is unbelievable.
The Magee and Nolan reports on practices in the Garda College in Templemore were produced in 2008 and 2010. Why were these reports not given to the Department? Why did these reports not get to an internal audit and get reported? When did the Commissioner know about these reports and why did he or she not report them to the Department of Justice and Equality? Who was on the audit committees during the years of these audit reports and have those people subsequentl y been promoted within An Garda Síochána on numerous occasions?
On 6 July 2015, a report on financial procedures and accounts was prepared by the Garda head of human resources for the Garda head of administration in regard to the accounts in Templemore. It was prepared in order to brief the audit committee. The head of administration never briefed the audit committee. Why was that? On 24 July 2015, the head of legal affairs in An Garda Síochána contacted the Garda Commissioner to say that the issues in the report that had been prepared by the head of human resources were so serious that the Minister should be made aware of them under section 41 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which provides that anything of significant relevance should be brought to the Minister’s attention. Why did this not happen? Why did the Garda Commissioner, having received legal advice from her head of legal affairs, not bring this to the Minister’s attention? There was a subsequent meeting of the Garda Commissioner, two acting commissioners, the head of administration and the head of human resources on 27 July 2015 to discuss this issue. The head of human resources and the head of legal affairs may have felt isolated subsequent to this because suddenly they were not required to do very much.
The issue of isolation seems to be a common trend in An Garda Síochána.
On 18 September 2015, the head of human resources, HR, met with the head of administration in the context of this legal advice following the interim report of the Fennelly commission again asking why the Minister had not been told about the report into financial affairs in Templemore Garda college. On 2 June 2016, the head of the audit committee met again with the head of human resources and people in An Garda Síochána and he was shocked at what he heard about the audit report. Again, nothing happened. What is the reason for that and what is the relationship between the head of the audit committee and t he Garda Síochána?
I have a number of other questions I want to put to the Minister. Why was the head of the internal audit committee in An Garda Síochána kept in the dark about these financial reports relating to Templemore until May 2016 or thereafter? Was there a campaign within An Garda Síochána to do so? Does e-mail traffic show that? We know from the Minister that on 16 September, her Department received its first copy of this report. Was that the first ever correspondence relating to a report on Templemore considering that the first report was done in 2008? When did Commissioner Callinan know? Did he ever inform the Department? It is ironic if he did not considering there were numerous discussions about Templemore relating to the restaurant and other issues because over a period the gardaí asked that the members who were working there be made civil servants. It would be very strange during that conversation and correspondence if the Garda Commiss ioner did not raise these issues.
Were the head of human resources and the head of legal affairs marginalised over the last two years? Who in An Garda Síochána was told about the requirements under ethics legislation by the Minister’s Department, and did this happen?
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy needs to conclude.
Deputy Alan Kelly: Was the Department told about the reports in 2008 and 2010? Why did the Commissioner not use section 41, as advised by the head of legal affairs, in regard to the audits that were being prepared in Templemore?
With regard to a very disturbing issue over the course of many years, probably decades, why are we saying that only in September 2016 did the Department of Justice and Equality know about any form of internal audits in regard to Templemore that had been ongoing