Two senior prison staff face fraud investigations

Two senior prison staff face fraud investigations

The Irish Prison Service is investigating separate claims two senior staff members have been involved in fraudulently misappropriating State assets.

The cases are unconnected and are the result of entirely separate claims from Prison Service members. One involves an allegation a senior member organised for prison assets to be diverted to his private property in a fraudulent manner. The value of the assets runs into tens of thousands of euro.

The activity was allegedly uncovered accidentally by another senior member of staff during a visit to the location from where the assets were being taken.

The second allegation is a senior member diverted personnel within the Prison Service to a third party agency to undertake training courses paid for by IPS and carried out during working hours. The allegation is this senior member of staff had a direct financial interest in the agency. This allegation is the subject of a protected disclosure to the Prison Service. It is unclear if the other allegation is in the form of protected disclosure or was merely presented to IPS headquarters in Longford.

A spokesperson for the IPS said any allegation about misappropriation of funds was treated with utmost seriousness and in accordance with IPS policy, including protected disclosure policy.

The alleged conduct referred to concerns very specific allegations, which if confirmed, could lead to their association with individuals. For that reason, the IPS has no comment to make in relation to them

The investigations are ongoing at a time when a legal firm is also probing another entirely separate protected disclosure alleging management in IPS failed to properly investigate a claim of misappropriation of funds within the service.

Meanwhile, also entirely separately, another senior staff member is involved in a legal action against the service over how she was transferred from a post after a walkout by prison officers from a unit housing the most dangerous criminals in the state. Ethel Gavin, who featured in RTÉ’s programme Inside Ireland’s Biggest Prison last February, was transferred after the walkout in May 2018. She had been campus governor over both the Midlands and Portlaoise prisons but was effectively demoted to governor after the walkout.

The prisons officers who walked off the job leaving the A block of Portlaoise dangerously unattended were not subjected to any disciplinary action. Two other senior members who were transferred with Ms Gavin were subsequently restored to their original posts.

The turbulence within IPS has led to calls from Fianna Fail TD Marc McSharry for the establishment of a Gsoc-style inspectorate for the prison service.

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