Concern over tax status at Garda College

The financial crisis at the Garda College has deepened after serious concerns emerged over the tax compliance of its accounts and fears over hundreds of cheques given to gardaí for unvouched expenses.

There was widespread confusion at the Public Accounts Committee yesterday as to the status of Templemore’s tax returns to Revenue, with chairman Sean Fleming saying there was the “possibility of a substantial liability”.

And there was also doubt as to whether senior gardaí who are directors of the Sportsfield company on the site have fulfilled their requirements regarding declarations of commercial interests and tax compliance to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

In addition, internal audit chief Niall Kelly revealed he was examining hundreds of cheques given to gardaí to pay for unvouched expenses from the college since 1998, some of which amounted to thousands of euro, as well as gifts for retiring officers.

Amidst concerns from Fine Gael TD Peter Burke of “possible misappropriation of money”, Mr Kelly said that some of expenditure may have been for “trips to Australia”.

Mr Kelly also confirmed to Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy that he was investigating whether any monies from Templemore were sent to a bank account in Dublin under the control of a former senior garda.

The fresh concerns emerged during a day-long session, lasting up to 10 hours, of the PAC attended by six senior civil servants attached to Garda Headquarters.

The PAC hearing heard:

  • Two senior civilians said they did not have full confidence in Garda management
  • Two civil servants gave evidence indicating that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was aware of the financial troubles at Templemore a month before she told PAC she did.
  • A working group was set up by senior staff at that stage and not by the commissioner, as she said

Members expressed shock at the professional and personal divisions among senior civil servants, with some of them openly and strongly criticising each other.

Under questioning from Deputy Burke and others, chief administrative officer Joe Nugent said there were five Garda tax numbers at Templemore and that they were in “discussions with Revenue about four”.

Asked were the accounts up to date, he said his “understanding” was returns had been made.

Asked was there any liability, he said this was “the subject of discussions with Revenue”.

Deputy Fleming (Fianna Fáil) repeatedly sought clarification from Mr Nugent and finance director Michael Culhane as to who was responsible for this area.

Mr Nugent said the “nub of the problem” was that some entities were not Garda ones, but said some of the directors of one them, Sportsfield, were senior gardaí.

Deputy Fleming said the situation was “extraordinary” and said there was the “possibility of a substantial liability”. He gave Mr Nugent 24 hours to clarify the various tax issues.

The chairman also pointed out that there were legal requirements on senior gardaí to notify the Standards in Public Office Commission if they have private interests and if they are tax compliant.

Head of legal services Ken Ruane said there were sanctions under company acts for directors who don’t send annual returns to Revenue.

Deputy Murphy asked Mr Kelly was there any indication of Templemore monies “being sent to a bank account in Dublin under the of a former senior garda”.

Mr Kelly said he would rather not answer the question “because it’s the subject of audit” he was completing.

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane said the crisis at Templemore was “extraordinary”.

He added: “I find some of the answers given shambolic and deeply troubling. It’s impossible for anybody listening in to have confidence in some of the civilian heads.”

Commissioner O’Sullivan attends PAC on June 14.

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