LIVE: Garda Commissioner: I take issue with being described a hostile witness

    The story so far

  • Garda Commissioner takes issue with being called a hostile witness
  • Garda Ombudsman to investigate financial irregularities at the force's training college, Templemore.
  • Internal audit of accounting practices uncovered dozens of bank accounts and a €5m surplus and investment policies related to the college.
  • Ms O'Sullivan said the funding model at Templemore was "complex and complicated" and clearly did not meet modern standards.
  • Irregularities highlighted in one bank account in particular which was overseen by a 'senior officer'
  • Citing 'due process', Garda Commissioner refuses to say who controlled the account
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General says he should have been told if there was any question of financial irregularity

Update 4pm: The Garda Commissioner has taken issue with being called a hostile witness at the Public Accounts Committee.

Noirin O’Sullivan was labelled a hostile witness by Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane, who said his questions weren’t being answered.

But Commissioner O’Sullivan said she was at the committee to answer questions.

"I think you could be described as a hostile witness in some instances," said Mr Cullinane

"With respect, I have never been described as a hostile witness in my entire career," responded Commissioner O’Sullivan

"I am here to assist this committee, I take issue with being called a hostile witness."

Update 2pm: The Garda Commissioner has repeatedly refused to say she that has full confidence in senior Gardaí.

Noirin O’Sullivan was asked eight times by the vice chair of the Public Accounts Committee Alan Kelly if she had confidence in each individual senior member of the force.

Commissioner O’Sullivan said she was confident they could work together and that they were an effective team.

But she stopped short of proclaiming confidence in each individual when asked by Alan Kelly, saying instead: “I have confidence in the collective ability of the team.”

Deputy Kelly said: “That doesn’t mean that you have confidence in every individual.

“I find that absolutely alarming.”

Seamus McCarthy

Update 12.38pm: The Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy said today that he should have been told if there was any question of financial irregularity at the Garda training college.

The Garda Commissioner is before the Public Accounts Committee again today, where she says she was under the impression one of her colleagues would inform the State spending watchdog of irregularities at Templemore.

Noirin O’Sullivan says she was not aware of the details of the irregularities, but admitted it was her job as accounting officer to inform the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Mr McCarthy told the PAC that he wasn’t aware of the information Commissioner O’Sullivan had, but that he should've been informed of irregularities.

“If there was any question mark over the appropriation account, or the regularity of any transactions, even in previous appropriation accounts, then I feel that should have been brought to my attention,” he said.

Update 11am: The Garda Commissioner has told the Public Accounts Committee she cannot say who controlled an account at the centre of fraud allegations.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has been answering questions at the Dail's Public Accounts Committee today regarding a bank account in Cabra in Dublin, where it is alleged that EU funds from were held.

Noirin O'Sullivan said the account, alleged to have be used for European money, was open between 1999 and 2010.

Ms O'Sullivan said the signatory to the account predated her term, and that of her predecessor.

“The head of internal audit has advised and referred the matter to me, suggesting that suspicious activity has taken place on this account,” she said.

“There is due process and fairness to individuals, I’m sure the committee would appreciate that has to be taken place.”

When asked by Labour’s Alan Kelly who had control of the account, she replied: “A retired senior officer”.

At its "height or peak" sums in excess of €90,000 were involved, the Garda chief said.

Marc MacSharry, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, later said that the revelations were "very conveniently kicked into" the Garda Ombudsman on Monday, restricting what the committee could inquire into.

"It's on the never-never," he said.

"God knows who will be on the Public Accounts Committee when the information comes out."

But Ms O'Sullivan denied any attempt to stymie the committee.

"Under no circumstances was this matter referred to the Garda Ombudsman to keep it from public view or the view of this committee," she said.

Update 10.36am: The Garda Ombudsman has been asked to investigate financial irregularities at the force's training college.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan told the Dail's Public Accounts Committee today that the controversy around the Garda College at Templemore was referred to the watchdog after she was given a private briefing from auditors within the force.

An internal audit of financial and accounting practices in Templemore has uncovered dozens of bank accounts, a €5m surplus and investment policies related to the college.

The leasing out of land, some money being spent on entertaining and retirement gifts, as well as a transfer of €100,000 to the Garda Boat Club, is also being investigated by the PAC.

After a briefing from the head of the internal Garda audit section on Friday, she said she requested a written report on the issues over the weekend and was now referring the controversy to the Garda Ombudsman.

Before the committee, Ms O'Sullivan said the funding model at Templemore was "complex and complicated" and clearly did not meet modern standards.

Ms O'Sullivan, who first became aware of concerns about financial irregularities at Templemore two years ago, said there was "a very significant difference" in the report she has just received and "broader" issues flagged in 2015.

"This is a very specific issue and (there is) reasonable cause to suspect that fraud has been committed in relation to an account," she told the committee.

"That is why the matter was referred to the Garda Ombudsman yesterday, to examine the report and make further inquiries to see if a criminal offence has been committed."

Ms O'Sullivan said it would be a "huge concern" if any law has been broken.

The suspected fraud was referred to the watchdog under Section 41 of the Garda Siochana Act, which requires the Garda Commissioner to keep the Government informed of any significant matters of public interest within the force.

Olaf, the European anti-fraud agency which investigates fraud against the EU budget, corruption and serious misconduct within European institutions, has also been notified.

The Department of Justice has been told of the revelations.

Update 10.15am: The Public Accounts Committee has heard how multiple investigations into suspected fraud at the Garda training college are now underway.

Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan is back before the taxpayers watchdog today, and has revealed that the matter is now with the Ombudsman Commission, Policing Authority and the European Commission auditors OLAF.

Earlier:

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan is appearing at the Public Accounts Committee this morning.

She is expected to face questions on whether Interpol funds were spent on flights and entertainment for officers.

Ms O’Sullivan is accused of knowing about the problems long before any action was taken.


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