Trump bill hits major Garda tech projects

Trump bill hits major Garda tech projects

The rollout of handheld mobile devices to frontline gardaí is one of several major ICT projects in “jeopardy” after the Garda commissioner was told the €10m-€12m bill for the visit of US president Donald Trump must come from the existing budget.

The devices successfully piloted in Limerick and due to be provided countrywide later this year, allow for immediate and secure roadside checks on vehicles.

Other ICT projects in doubt include a new electronic system to record and monitor every stage of criminal investigations, also touted as a key part of the garda reform programme.

Given a stated priority within the organisation to protect spending on frontline policing and on combatting organised crime, garda HQ is looking to major costs in ICT to secure the savings.

However, sources said cuts to overtime are also being sought from divisions, particularly in Dublin, which accounts for the bulk of the overtime bill. This includes Dublin West and Dublin North which are dealing with a multitude of violent gangland feuds.

Sources said the Department of Justice told Garda HQ after the visit of Mr Trump that the policing bill must come from the current 2019 garda budget. Major visits by foreign dignitaries have traditionally been provided for in supplementary budgets to gardaí at the end of the year.

It is understood the Department of Justice has made it clear to Garda HQ that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is adamant no supplementary provision will be made to cover the trip.

There have been successive reports on the need to modernise technology in the force, including the Garda Inspectorate 2014 Crime Investigation report and the Commission on the Future of Policing report, published last September.

The Government’s Implementation Plan on the commission’s report sets out a number of ICT projects for this year:

  • Start the rollout in Quarter 4 of 2,000 mobile devices to frontline police;
  • Deployment of the Investigation and Management System (currently piloted in the South-East) to other regions from mid-quarter three this year;
  • Deployment of the Enterprise Content Management System (a file management and sharing system aligned to IMIS) from Q2 2019;
  • Rollout of Roster and Duty Management System from Q3.

Sources said these projects are now in “jeopardy” and may have to be deferred, with a knock-on effect.

“If you don’t cut the frontline then it has to be the back office and ICT is the biggest spend,” said one source.

“There’s no other option”.

The delay on mobile devices will be a big blow, given the level of public and political support for it: “We had a pilot in Limerick, it was successful,” said a source.

It’s in the commission report and the implementation plan. Then five months in we’re told we have to do without the €11m.

The mobility project was given a €1.5m provision in Budget 2019. The smartphones allow for roadside testing and can allow gardaí to instantly conduct vehicle checks, conduct live footage and scan registration plates, all through a series of secure policing apps.

The investigation system is touted as a major part of garda reform and a response to controversies on investigations. It enables electronic recording and allocation of tasks and full supervision of all actions.

Garda HQ is further concerned given US vice president Mike Pence may come in September, which could add a further €5m-€10m, and unknown extra security costs from protecting customs facilities post a hard Brexit on October 31.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said:

€1.76bn has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to €92m this year.

"The management and efficient use of Garda resources is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team, having regard to operational need.”

A Garda statement said: “The overall cost of the President Trump Visit has not yet been finalised. When this is done it will be the subject of the ongoing financial reporting to the Department of Justice and Equality.”

Garda sources said that while there is a budget of €1.76bn 90% is fixed, in wages and salaries, leaving a total of €176m in discretionary spend, including overtime.

In November 2014, the Garda Inspectorate said the Garda Pulse computer system needed to be retired and replaced by an entirely new platform.

Government promises of funding for ICT in 2015 culminated in a promised massive capital investment of €342 million between 2016 and 2021.

The Policing Commission report said the Garda Pulse system dated from 1990s. It said it was an incident recording system but not a crime investigation system nor a management tool.

It said it was “too complex and slow” and was “proving deficient” even in the functions it was set up for.

It said the current Computer Aided Dispatch system was “outdated” and a modern one was needed.

Targets in the Government implementation plan to rollout CAD to all regions has been completed, sources said, but confirmed it was still the old system and that a new modern upgraded CAD is due to be procured this year.

The Policing Commission said the Investigation and Management System needed to be deployed, as did ones for budget, human resources, property management, risk management, enterprise content management and rostering.

It said the mobility pilot should be rolled out so that “all frontline are prioritised” to receive official smart phones or tablets.

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