Templemore: PAC hears 'if Austin Powers had shown up... he wouldn't have known it was a different time period'

Templemore: PAC hears 'if Austin Powers had shown up... he wouldn't have known it was a different time period'

Update 1.43pm: The head of internal audit in the Gardaí says he does have confidence in the current Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan and Deputy Commissioner Dónal O'Cualáin.

However, Niall Kelly has told the Public Accounts Committee he has been thwarted in the past by senior Garda management in investigating financial irregularities at the training college in Templemore.

Being questioned by Shane Cassells at the Committee, Mr Kelly outlined some of those whom he felt were trying to keep information from him.

"There's sufficient evidence before this Committee to say that the Office of the Director of Finance... the Office of the Deputy Commissioner Strategy and Change Management, did not forward information - the college itself did not forward information to internal audit," he said.

Update 1.15pm: TD Shane Cassells has said that from the information coming to light today that it seems like "the swinging sixties have been kept going" at the garda college.

"If Austin Powers had shown up in his time machine in Templemore he wouldn't have known it was a different time period," he said.

Update 12.03pm: Two senior civilians in the Gardaí have told the Public Accounts Committee they cannot express full confidence in all senior management of the force.

Head of internal audit, Niall Kelly and head of human resources John Barrett are among a number of witnesses before the committee on financial irregularities at the Garda training college.

The executive director of finance today withdrew his previous assertion that the draft audit report was "unprofessional, misleading and mischievous".

Mr Kelly and Mr Barrett then told Labour's Alan Kelly they could not express full confidence in the senior management team.

"I have some reservations Deputy... I'm very concerned about what I learned this morning, truthfully it's quite shocking to me," said Mr Barrett.

"I would concur with Mr Barrett, there are some questions," Mr Kelly said.

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Update 11.02am: The head of internal audit in the Gardaí has revealed in detail how financial irregularities at the training college in Templemore were kept from him.

Niall Kelly is appearing before the Public Accounts Committee over his interim report on how taxpayers money was used for entertainment and gifts, and how up to 50 bank accounts were in his existence.

He has told the committee he is not convinced the cover-up culture has changed in the Gardaí.

"I am convinced that there was, and there may still be in some parts of An Garda Siochána, a culture of not admitting to problems.

"When these problems persist - trying to keep them in-house and away from transparent public scrutiny," he said.

Earlier: The Public Accounts Committee is to hear how senior Gardaí allegedly tried to block a probe into their training college at Templemore.

Members will grill seven civilian officers over the claims later.

Among them is the head of the force's internal audit unit who will tell them information was deliberately withheld by his 'direct superiors'.

Niall Kelly will also say there has been attempt to undermine him since his report revealed public money was being spent on private clubs and entertainment.

Templemore: PAC hears 'if Austin Powers had shown up... he wouldn't have known it was a different time period'

    Documents seen by the Irish Examiner are due to be discussed at a special day-long Dáil public accounts committee meeting today, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith and Juno McEnroe, Irish Examiner.

    And while the files will be countered by a senior officer’s emails showing they were open to examining the issue from as early as 2008, they highlight the growing divisions in the force.

    In a written statement to the PAC, Garda internal audit chief Mr Kelly — one of seven civilian officers due to be questioned today without the presence of Garda management — will claim his investigations were repeatedly blocked and undermined.

    Mr Kelly will tell the cross-party committee between 2008 and 2011 he believes “some people did not want the newly appointed and very independent internal auditor [Mr Kelly]” to look “too critically into the Garda college”, and that “these people included my direct superiors”. The audit chief will say that when he sought information it was “withheld from me”, and will claim he was misled in September 2015 about whether he could examine the case.

    “I was informed legal issues were being advanced in regard to the land and employee status and until they were resolved it would be unwise to commence an audit,” he will say.

    “I now know that I was misinformed... [Garda head of legal affairs] Ken Ruane was advising from July 2015 onward that internal audit should be requested immediately.”

    Mr Kelly — who confirmed two new audits into Garda college EU funding since 1998 and current controls of cash have been launched and are due in July — will also claim that his “motives, professional integrity, and competence” were questioned in two letters sent in October 2016 and February 2017 by senior management.

    However, despite alleging “there was and may still be a culture of keeping problems in-house and away from transparent public scrutiny”, the claim will be staunchly rejected by another civilian officer.

    In records provided to the PAC and as part of his own evidence, head of Garda finance Michael Culhane will reject any suggestion that management failed to address what happened.

    Mr Culhane, who was finance officer throughout the Garda college controversy, will provide management emails from January 7, 2008, to March 4, 2011, confirming he, assistant commissioners and the chief administration officer all sought to allow and act on an investigation.

    Mr Culhane will tell the PAC it has “significant gaps” in its information and that whistleblower garda HR executive Mr Barrett — who will also attend the meeting — provided it with “partial and inaccurate representations”. However, Mr Culhane is also expected to be questioned over an October 24, 2015, letter to management in which he suggested Ms O’Sullivan should consider setting up an investigation into Mr Barrett over concerns his private records — key to the case — could breach the Official Secrets’ Act “as his intent may appear to be to cause damage” to the gardaí.

    Meanwhile, during an unrelated Dáil leaders’ questions debate Taoiseach Enda Kenny said reports a phone belonging to Ms O’Sullivan had gone missing will be probed by the Charleton tribunal. Mr Kenny was responding to Solidarity-PBP TD Mick Barry, who asked “was that phone officially reported missing, if so, when exactly” and suggested that Ms O’Sullivan may have a second phone.

Templemore: PAC hears 'if Austin Powers had shown up... he wouldn't have known it was a different time period'

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