Internal auditors at An Garda Síochána have vented their fury at being kept in the dark by senior gardaí about the existence of thousands of fake breath tests or unreliable fixed-notice convictions, writes Daniel McConnell.
The force’s internal auditors have blasted the failure of senior management to inform them of the two scandals, saying it delayed the publication of their annual report.
The Garda internal Audit Committee has said it was “very concerned” that senior gardaí did not tell it about the existence of thousands of fake breath tests or unreliable fixed-notice convictions, despite knowing about them for up to a year.
Now, Dáil spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), is demanding answers from Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan as to why the auditors were not told.
The committee’s report, seen by the Irish Examiner, states it was unable to publish the 2016 annual report by its March 2017 deadline because of “two high-profile announcements by Garda management relating to both these matters, which were not notified to the audit service in advance”.
In unusually strong language, the committee said that neither it nor the Garda’s internal audit unit had been informed. This was despite senior gardaí already devoting considerable resources to examining both scandals.
The committee, as a result, said it has been “placed in the unusual position of being unable to offer any view concerning the implications of either issue”.
Responding to the report’s findings, Labour TD Alan Kelly, who is the vice-chairman of the PAC, said it was concerning that the force was interfering with the work of its own audit team.
“It’s absolutely incredible stuff,” Mr Kelly said on RTÉ Radio.
“Obviously, the relationship between the internal audit function and senior management in An Garda Síochána isn’t functioning. The passing of information from one to the other isn’t happening to the level required.
“Why weren’t the audit committee told about this for over a year? How can they do their jobs? How can they actually assess risks and costs to the taxpayer if they are not provided information in the first place?”
Mr Kelly made it clear that the PAC was not provided with a copy of the audit committee’s report, even though it demanded, on numerous occasions, that all relevant documentation be disclosed to it.
Mr Kelly, who represents the Tipperary constituency in which the Garda college at Templemore is located, said the report raised serious concerns at the highest level of the force.
The internal audit committee has investigated the issue of fixed-charge notices ever since problems were flagged with the penalty points system by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe back in 2012.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.