€90k held in ‘secret’ garda account

The Garda Ombudsman has been asked to investigate suspected fraudulent activity involving a secret bank account held in the name of former gardaí.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that, “at its height”, the account had “€90,000-plus” in it.

The money was transferred into this account — held in Cabra, north Dublin — from a bank account in the Garda College Templemore into which EU police training funds were sent.

Ms O’Sullivan said she received a report from internal auditor Niall Kelly last Monday in which he said he had sufficient suspicion that “fraud may have been carried out” involving the account, which opened in 1999 and closed in 2010.

She refused to answer repeated questions as to the identities of the account signatories. She told Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry she was not aware of “all the signatories”. She said it was “not appropriate or fair” to name any individual and said they were entitled to “due process”.

She told PAC vice-chair Alan Kelly an account signatory was a “retired senior officer”. She told Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy she understood the account was a “garda account” and not a personal account.

TDs said it was “convenient” for the commissioner that she had referred the matter to GSOC before yesterday’s hearing. Ms O’Sullivan said “under no circumstances” did she take this action to stop PAC.

Also at the PAC:

  • The commissioner said legal advice was sought and a “process” was underway after the former head of the audit committee Michael Howard wrote to her last April requesting that comments in a letter from finance boss Michael Culhane to Niall Kelly should be either “unconditionally withdrawn or unambiguously overruled by a superior authority”
  • She said the comments made by Mr Culhane were “very strong” and “not appropriate” — but was criticised by members for earlier describing his letter as a “submission” to Mr Kelly;
  • Members criticised her for describing as “interpersonal issues” the differences between Mr Culhane and HR boss John Barrett;
  • She said she never considered Mr Culhane’s suggestion that Mr Barrett be investigated under the Official Secrets Act;
  • She rejected assertions that she knew about financial issues at Templemore before July 27, 2015;
  • Mr Barrett wrote to the commissioner and copied it to PAC, in which he said this position was not correct;
  • She took grave exception at being likened to a “hostile witness” by Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane;
  • 22 of 272 senior officers had not indicated yet to Garda HQ if they were compliant with public office declaration requirements.

Mr Kelly said that despite her assertions the department would be involved in the working group set up in July 2015, that they were not informed until October 1. Ms O’Sullivan said she understood former chief administrative officer Cyril Dunne would have done so.

Mr Kelly questioned her at length did she have confidence in each of her garda management team, to which she eventually said she had confidence in the “collective ability of the team”.


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