Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has denied that financial irregularities at the Garda College in Templemore were referred to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to keep the controversy from the public and the Public Accounts Committee.
GSOC has begun a criminal investigation after it emerged that large sums from European Union funding were put through a previously undiscovered bank account in Cabra, Dublin.
Ms O'Sullivan is appearing before the PAC to face further questioning about financial matters at the Garda College.
She told the committee that a retired senior garda officer was a signatory to the Cabra account but she refused to name him or any of the other signatories because she said people were entitled to due process.
She insisted she was not protecting anyone.
The commissioner also said she did not believe the amounts involved were as much as €100,000 unaccounted for, but said the internal auditor felt there was sufficient suspicion that fraud may have been committed.
Auditor Niall Kelly briefed the commissioner verbally last Friday and submitted a written report to her yesterday.
The money involved came from EU-funded training programmes and the commissioner said the account predates her time and that of her predecessor as commissioner, Martin Callinan.
She said the account operated over an 11-year period from 1999 until it was closed in 2010.
The commissioner said that EU monies for training purposes were transferred from Templemore to the account in Cabra in Dublin.
She said her understanding was that this was a Garda account and that the amounts in it ranged from €5,000 to just over €90,000.
The commissioner also said she did not know what level of criminal offence if indeed any offence had taken place and said she did not know why money was transferred from Templemore to the Cabra account.
Fianna Fáil TD Mark MacSharry said it was "convenient" the matter had now been referred to GSOC and the PAC could not ask questions about it.
Labour TD Alan Kelly, who is chairing the committee, questioned why Ms O'Sullivan acted so swiftly with the report she received yesterday compared to the information she received in July 2015.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan refused to name the signatories— RTÉ News (@rtenews) June 20, 2017
of the Cabra bank account, saying people are entitled to due process pic.twitter.com/lcucublwoI
Ms O'Sullivan said in July 2015 she was made aware of certain issues in relation to the Garda College, and from the information and briefings she had received more information was required.
She pointed out that she set up a working group as a result.
A Garda College interim audit report, which was published last February, detailed serious financial irregularities at the college.
The report discovered financial irregularities and evidence that money was being spent on gifts and entertainment.
It also identified a large number of bank accounts as part of a non-transparent system of accounting.
In a previous appearance before the committee, Ms O'Sullivan said the issues at Templemore were legacy matters dating back 30 years.
In other questioning, the commissioner said there is a huge cultural shift under way regarding the integration of garda and civilian teams in the force.
Commissioner O'Sullivan was responding to Fine Gael's Jospeha Madigan who said evidence to the PAC over recent weeks showed a disconnect between uniform and civilian gardaí.
Commissioner O'Sullivan said a key focus of her management team since 2014 has been integration, however, she added that public commentary has not been helpful or conducive to that integration.
Meanwhile, she said she did not deliberately misread as interpersonal difficulties a letter she received from the Director of Finance, Michael Culhane, making complaints about John Barrett, the Director of Human Resources who discovered a 2008 report on financial irregularities at Templemore.
She was responding to a line of questioning from Independent TD Catherine Connolly in relation to a letter.
Mr Kelly asked the commissioner if she has confidence in everybody working at senior level in An Garda Síochána.
The commissioner said she was confident that they are working together to make a cohesive, effective team.
Mr Kelly said the public needs to know that the commissioner has full confidence in each member of senior management in every way.
She said any organisation that is going through the restructuring that An Garda Síochána is going through, will have tensions.
Asked again if she had confidence in each individual member of her management team, the commissioner said she had confidence in the collective abilities of the team.
Policing Authority Chair outlines timeline of awareness
Josephine Feehily has outlined a timeline of awareness and actions by the Policing Authority in relation to the financial irregularities at the Garda College.
The Chairperson of the Authority, who is before the PAC tonight, said she became aware that there were questions and issues regarding the college in early 2016.
Ms Feehily said that in June or July of that year she spoke to the head of the audit committee of An Garda Síochana who satisfied her that the audit was under way.
However, she added, she had no sense of detail.
She said John O'Callaghan [of the Department of Justice] gave her a courtesy call that the audit had been completed.
She said the next day that [Assistant Garda Commissioner] Dónall Ó Cualáin contacted the Chief Executive in a similar vein.
Ms Feehily then briefed the Authority at its monthly meeting, where she said it "rested" because the Policing Authority took the view that it wanted the final audit report and not something from "just the management side".
She said that when the final report was published, it was referred to the Policing Authority to oversee recommendations.
Ms Feehily said the Police Authority is now awaiting the completion of the next installment of the audit as well as the conclusion of the work of the PAC.
She said if by September, the Authority believes there are any other gaps, it will involve itself.
Concerns about number of accounts operating
The Independents4Change TD, Catherine Connolly, has said she was concerned about the number of garda accounts operating outside normal procedures.
Ms Connolly, a member of the PAC, told RTÉ’s Six One that the Garda Commissioner's approach was that this was a legacy issue and it was being judged by today’s standards, looking back.
She said it is quite clear from what has emerged from the course of the meetings back in 2006, 2008 and 2010, that it was also operating outside of the accepted financial procedures that were appropriate at that time.
Ms Connolly said she appreciates that the Commissioner is under pressure and has inherited quite a lot of situations. However one issue is the legacy issue, which Ms O’Sullivan has said is a legacy issue but accepts now is still ongoing.
She said that procedures that were set up to deal with the problems raised in the various reports had not been acted on. These procedures amounted to a working group and a steering committee and so on.
Ms Connolly said a serious disagreement arose between at least two gentlemen on those committees. She believes the Commissioner utterly failed to grasp the seriousness or significance of this and had put it down to a personality clash.
She said she has serious issues with the way Ms O’Sullivan had managed this matter and she had failed to grasp the significance of what was being done, given the context of the previous inaction over many years.