The Vice Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Tipperary Labour Deputy Alan Kelly TD, reacting to the report on the financial irregularities at the Garda College in Templemore, has said that the conclusions show that the position of the Garda Commissioner is untenable, and she should resign.
In a statement to this week's Tipperary Star, Deputy Kelly said that following extensive hearings on the financial irregularities at the Garda College and the way in which it was handled, he believes the conclusions and recommendations leave the Garda Commissioner in an untenable position.
“As the report concludes, protecting the reputation of the force seems to have come before any other concern with hugely damaging consequences,” Deputy Kelly said.
He added, "The evidence presented showed that the Commissioner knew of the issues in the College on or before July 2015. As the report concludes, it is unacceptable that she failed to act to ensure the Comptroller & Auditor General was informed without delay when the mismanagement first came to light. Instead it took 10 months, and was not done by the accounting officer.
"Allied with the failure to promptly inform the Department and the lack of action on recommendations made by the internal audit unit, it shows the management weaknesses at the top of our police force. Two years on from July 2015 most of the changes required have yet to be completed up to the current day, which is unacceptable.
"As accounting officer for An Garda Síochána the responsibility lay with the Garda Commissioner to ensure that the issues that were uncovered were resolved promptly. Frankly, it is not acceptable that this was delayed, that there were systemic failures to resolve it, and clearly it shows a failure of corporate governance.
"It is clear that senior management did not fully cooperate with the Committee on Public Accounts or provide documentation in a prompt manner, and that there was a persistent reluctance to inform the necessary oversight bodies.
"The hearings showed the dysfunction at the heart of senior management with a lack of common purpose. This was shown with regular contradictions in evidence and timelines at the PAC. The team we have entrusted to run our police force is not working together properly. This ongoing level of disagreement will undermine future reforms. The responsibility for this must rest with the Garda Commissioner. The perception that those who speak out might be silenced by changing their responsibilities is deeply concerning.
"The report also shows that the Department of Justice is still not functioning properly, and the idea that they had no idea what was going on in Templemore is not credible. As the report recommends, there must be a review to clarify the oversight role of the Department over An Garda Síochána.
“This report adds to the extensive list of other controversies in An Garda Siochána from speeding, breathalysers, issues with the compilation of statistics on homicides, and how the whistleblowers were treated.
“As recommended in the report, under Section 41 of the Garda Siochána Act 2015, the Commissioner should have advised the Minister for Justice about the financial irregularities in the Garda College as soon as they came to her attention. However the Commissioner failed to act - her position is untenable.”
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald also launched a broadside at the Department of Justice stating that officials were “at best, asleep at the wheel.”
Meanwhile, governance at the Office of Public Works was also heavily criticised - the OPW owns land purchased in Clonmore for the Garda College but which has never been used, and has been rented out since, with question marks over the accounts into which the rent was paid.
The finances of the College have been under severe scrutiny after it had been revealed that a multiplicty of accounts were being held for many different purposes. And reports of the transfer of large sums of money into other accounts sent alarm bells ringing.