Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said the system to ensure disqualified drivers do not use the roads is "not working" and this has created issues around road safety.

He was speaking as new figures show around nine out of ten motorists who are banned have still not surrendered their licences.

Of 83,000 drivers disqualified over the past eight years, just 11% have surrendered their licences. The figure was as low as 7% in 2012. The rate was 13% last year.

The information is contained in response to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael TD Peter Burke who said it represents a "crisis point for the administration of justice."

Mr Burke said: "When one considers that 7% of fatal accidents have been caused by disqualified drivers, there is a number of fatalities that have been driven by this," he said.

Asked about the system, Mr Harris said: "It is not working as we would wish and it is not working as one would wish in that disqualified drivers, by and large, are retaining their licences."

He said: "That is not good, it is a road safety issue and people are in effect evading the justice that is handed out to them."

Mr Harris said road policing members are being equipped with devices to scan licences and he hopes there will be 2,000 of these in circulation by the end of the year.

He said he would come back to the committee with more detail on what is being done.

Responding to the comments by Commissioner Harris, the Road Safety Authority pointed out that 30% of disqualified drivers never held a valid licence while another 20% held a licence that had expired.

In a statement, the RSA said the surrender of a licence does not guarantee that a disqualified driver will stay off the road.

It said the critical issue is that gardaí are able to identify, at the side of the road, those who drive while disqualified, irrespective of whether or not their licence has been surrendered following disqualification.

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The RSA also said it believes that 2,000 new smartphone devices will be issued to gardaí this year to enable them to identify disqualified drivers and other road traffic offenders.

Meanwhile, gardaí have also said that over 2,200 of the 14,700 people who were wrongly convicted of road traffic offences have been contacted and their cases concluded.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey told the Public Accounts Committee that another 2,000 cases were before the courts and the gardaí were working their way through the others.

He said of the 12,000 letters issued, 5,000 came back unserved and local superintendents were trying to find these people.

Many, he said, had moved house or changed their cars.

He said the gardaí have not received any requests for compensation and there was no evidence that anyone had lost their jobs because of the errors.

In relation to the false breath test controversy, Commissioner Harris told the committee that the gardaí now have tighter controls and have made necessary changes to ensure it does not happen again.

GSOC not consulted before establishing corruption unit

Commissioner Harris has said he did not consult the Garda Ombudsman before establishing an internal corruption unit in An Garda Síochána.

He told the PAC that while GSOC was an independent body which investigates public complaints, he had a responsibility to investigate and root out potential corruption within the garda.

He pointed out that gardaí have previously investigated garda, uncovered criminality themselves and followed through.

These investigations, he said, are conducted to a very high standard and many gardaí have been brought before the courts and GSOC had been informed.

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane raised the case of an individual in Store Street Garda Station, who had made a complaint of bullying and was arrested three weeks later for sick leave notes.

He said the case subsequently fell apart, the charges were dropped in court, and this raises questions.

Commissioner Harris said that no record of a complaint of bullying or harassment was made or none can be found and the investigation was based on very reasonable grounds for pursuing it.

The case, he said, is subject to a public complaint to GSOC and he has to wait for GSOC to make its recommendations.

On the issue of body cameras for gardaí he said it was his policy to introduce them but legislation was needed. He said he would also have to decide which way to go. Gardaí would be issued with smart phones with a video facility and these phones might be a cost effective alternative.

Body cameras, he said, cost in the mid hundreds but there was also the aspect of the data storage and for how long to store, 30 days or a year –"you really start to rack up costs there." The issue he said was about secure download and evidential package that you can produce in court.

15 minute Garda overtime pay before duty 'an issue'

Commissioner Harris also said he has an issue with the payment of 15 minutes overtime for gardaí before they come on duty.

The payment, which was agreed by Government as part of a pay deal with the garda associations to avert a garda strike, has increased garda overtime costs by over €28 million.

Commissioner Harris has described overtime payments as "a drain on the garda budget and not sustainable".

Over €22m was spent on overtime for the first three months of this year, which was €6m less than the same period last year.

Commissioner Harris also told the public accounts committee that the garda roster was "pretty inflexible", costs money, and that he needed one that was "operationally effectual".

Additional reporting Paul Reynolds