The Policing Authority has hit out at the lack of progress on civilianisation in An Garda Síochána, saying that so far only 14 garda members have been re-deployed back to the frontline.

It noted its "disappointment" in a report on its effectiveness and the adequacy of its functions.

The authority also said that before the next round of competitions for senior garda ranks, provision needs to be made so that all appointments include a probation period.

It also said it is envisaged that the position of Garda Commissioner will be advertised early this year.

However, in the report it said it considers that at present there is "too much prescription in the legislation regarding the process" of appointing a new commissioner.

"The authority is given the responsibility for a task (in this case the nomination) but the legislation limits our capacity to perform it," it said.

Elsewhere in the report, it noted disappointments including the lack of progress on civilianisation, the continuing downward trend in detection levels across a number of crime types and a failure to deliver a strategy on diversity and inclusion and a new community policing framework.

On civilianisation, it says there is a "failure to make meaningful progress with regard to civilianisation and the redeployment of garda members back to front-line duties.

"As of December 2017, it has been confirmed to the authority that 14 garda members have been re-deployed."

It also noted: "Real gaps in practical training and the continued absence of a training strategy, including a strategy around resourcing a comprehensive programme of continuous professional development."

Under barriers to effectiveness it highlights four areas - poor data availability and quality, weak governance, the oversight architecture and access to information.

On data, it says the authority has been unable to access key information that would inform its oversight functions.

"In the main, the reason for this is that the Garda Síochána have not, in the past, gathered certain data (eg how and where staff are deployed) centrally. In addition, there is an ongoing concern about the quality and accuracy of the key data that is gathered (eg crime statistics)."

On governances it said: "The authority has concerns in relation to many governance aspects of the Garda Síochána and in autumn 2017, it commissioned a review of the current governance arrangements at the senior management level.

"The results of this review will be followed up in early 2018 and, during next year, the theme of governance will cross-cut all of its oversight work and form a basis for continuing to press for change and improvement."

On oversight architecture it said: "In the view of the authority, the current structures are inefficient, have created confusion around responsibility, and blurred the lines of accountability."

The authority also said there have been long delays and in some instances a reluctance to provide information because of a concern in the force that it would become the subject of an Freedom of Information request to the authority.

It continues: "On occasion, the authority has been concerned that there has been a slowness on the part of the Garda Síochána to proactively inform the authority about problems and risks related to the authority's functions, sometimes because of lack of appreciation about the scope of its functions.

"The authority acknowledges that this has improved over the two years. For example, the decision of the Garda Commissioner to inform the authority, and then the public, about the problems identified in relation to numbers of intoxicant tests and wrongful prosecutions was welcome."

The Policing Authority said the ambiguity of the roles of authority and Minister for Justice has created a "crowded, confused and inefficient oversight regime" for the gardaí.

The report highlights the challenge of overseeing the performance of the organisation while the head of that organisation, the Garda Commissioner, is accountable to the minister.

It says it raises questions that "include the role to be provided for the Minister and the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality, and the exclusion of the Authority from oversight of security matters".

The authority report goes on to state that "the uncertainty among stakeholders about its role and functions, while understandable, has the potential to affect public confidence in its effectiveness".

This, it says, is largely as a result of a "cumbersome legislative scheme".

In a statement this evening, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said it has spent much of 2017 pushing for a working group to be established to progress civilianisation.

It said that group was set up this month.

It said: "In relation to training and continuing professional development, we are frustrated that no progress has been made on a force-wide training plan."

AGSI President Antoinette Cunningham met Kathleen O'Toole, Head of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, recently who described this lack of progress as "completely outrageous".

The AGSI said this is an urgent priority in its view.