Garda college auditor faced legal threat

A Garda manager threatened the internal auditor who uncovered the Garda college financial scandal with legal action if he did not remove key findings from his report into the case.

Michael Culhane, the Garda college’s head of finance, made the allegation in a written letter to auditor Niall Kelly in October 2016, claiming the internal audit had effectively defamed him.

The correspondence is part of a trawl of fresh documents due to be discussed by the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) when it meets privately today to consider its own draft report into the controversy. The correspondence was written as part of the initial response to the internal audit findings.

The claim was strongly rejected by Mr Kelly, who insisted in a response written in February 2017 that he did not defame anyone and the information was entirely accurate.

In the October 2016 letter, seen by the Irish Examiner, Mr Culhane said Mr Kelly “deliberately and falsely created [a] defamatory impression” against him. He said this specifically involved the suggestion he conspired with the college to conceal financial practices from the audit.

“Unless this defamatory construct is withdrawn I am putting you on notice that I am reserving my right to issue legal proceedings,” wrote Mr Culhane.

The issue is one of a number of alleged attempts to limit the scope of the conclusions of the report, an issue already discussed at recent PAC meetings.

Mr Culhane has written to the PAC in recent days in a bid to clarify an email, revealed last week, in which he suggested the college’s charitable status reference to Revenue was an attempt to “muddy things up”.

Mr Culhane made the reference in an email to the Department of Justice in July 2010, a situation described as “troubling” by PAC member Marc MacSharry of Fianna Fáil at last week’s meeting.

In a letter to the PAC in recent days, Mr Culhane said that “the term ‘muddy things up’ was used in the context that the action of including the issue of charitable tax status in the voluntary disclosure may have unnecessarily complicated [the issue]” and was not meant to indicate anything untoward.

The correspondence will be discussed by the PAC today, alongside a separate letter from Garda head of legal affairs Ken Ruane, who has contradicted some of Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s evidence.

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