Gardaí face fake breath test report difficulties

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s failure to deliver an internal audit report into 1m fake breath tests and fixed-charge notices has been blamed on “considerable difficulties” in gathering facts, several months after the scandal broke, writes Daniel McConnell and Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

A “confidential” internal Garda report into the affair, drafted by Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan and seen by the Irish Examiner, has stated the process will not be completed until July 31, after the Dáil rises for the summer.

As a result, the Public Accounts Committee, which will take evidence from the commissioner on Thursday, will not be in a position to probe her on the fake breath test issue until the autumn.

PAC member and Social Democrat leader Catherine Murphy last night said once again we have a “coincidence” that an issue which the committee wishes to press cannot be dealt with.

“Anyone watching US crime shows are told there is no such thing as a coincidence, and we cannot say this is deliberate, but as a result we will have to wait until the Autumn to get answers on this most serious issue,” she told the Irish Examiner.

According to the report, work remains to deliver a full explanation of what happened because of problems in reconciling data.

“There have been considerable difficulties in reconciling data in the course of this examination,” the confidential report states.

“This includes data held by the medical bureau of road safety and An Garda Síochána.

This difficulty was a factor highlighted by the Garda Siochana Inspectorate in their review of Roads Policing and Recommendations in November 2008.”

The report, dated June 26, said there was work to complete in more than 20 strands of inquiry both in terms of the breath test issue and the fixed-charge notice issue.

The commissioner came under pressure to resign in March after it emerged the force exaggerated the number of breath tests taken between 2012 and 2016 by 1m.

In response to the revelations, Ms O’Sullivan was to make public a final report into what happened, how, and who was responsible.

The PAC met privately on the Garda college report yesterday. It is due to be published next Tuesday. They meet again in private this afternoon, before a public meeting with Ms O’Sullivan tomorrow.

The PAC’s college report is expected to heavily criticise Ms O’Sullivan and the Department of Justice for failing to fully inform the Comptroller and Auditor General of the crisis at the facility, but will not be able to make claims on alleged fraud or other issues.

The second interim report into the controversy was criticised by Policing Authority chair Josephine Feehily last week for containing “no analysis at all” on the fake figures.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner

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