Garda college officials knew of ‘laundry’ account

Senior officials at the crisis-hit garda college were told nine years ago the facility’s “laundry” account and certain learning grants were being used for officer loans, bonuses and entertainment costs for unknown reasons.

The damning conclusion, seen by the Irish Examiner, is contained in a copy of the 2008 McGee internal audit report which failed to be acted on when it was provided to authorities almost a decade ago.

A copy of the 53-page document leaked last night amid a flurry of fresh revelations and as garda officers are set to clarify today if the college’s secret bank accounts were tax compliant shows officials were told of serious concerns over the facility’s financial actions nine years ago.

The audit said there were “discrepancies in compliance” with financial and governance rules and that the issues “exposed a substantial risk in terms of internal controls”.

It said the sheer number of different accounts and areas linked to the college — including its restaurant, shop, sportsfield, social club, golf and leisure club and laundry account — means it is “difficult to ascertain the legal rights of these accounts”.

And, in a specific section on the college’s controversial laundry account, it found the money — which included some funds from the CEPOL learning grants — was being used for unknown reasons on loans, bonuses and entertainment costs for officers.

“Such payments include loans to staff, certain bonuses, funding of entertainment expenses, donations and sporting expenses. There is a lack of financial control being applied.

“It is difficult to ascertain the reason why these charges are being allocated and lodged,” the audit said.

The document is expected to be examined in detail by the Dáil’s public accounts committee when it meets with a series of senior gardaí, the author of the audit, and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan later this month.

It comes after a 10-hour, high-profile PAC meeting on Wednesday with garda civilian officers key to uncovering the scandal, found:

  • Senior gardaí involved in the Sportsfield garda college company may have breached strict SIPO company rules.
  • Hundreds of cheques may have been given to gardaí for unknown reasons from the garda college funds.
  • A previously unknown AIB bank account in Cabra, Dublin, may be linked to the college and EU grants dating back two decades.
  • And two whistleblowers who attempted to highlight the scandals were blocked from accessing information, with one threatened with a criminal case because his notes may have broken the Official Secrets’ Act.

While the PAC expected to be told yesterday by gardaí whether secret bank accounts linked to the college are tax compliant, the cross-party group now expects the information today.

Separately, it has also been confirmed the garda internal audit unit is examining concerns amounts of money were transferred from the garda college account to the personal account of a retired top rank garda a number of years ago.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said last night she received the information from “an impeccable source” and that “if the money was transferred by the way or for the purpose we understand, I think there is the possibility of fraud”.

The PAC yesterday agreed to question garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan — alongside Department of Justice and Policing Authority officials — about the general garda college issue on June 21.

Meanwhile, the Policing Authority has strongly criticised the lack of garda leadership in implementing civilianisation — a key recommendation of the Garda Inspectorate seen as vital to ensuring transparency.

In a report to Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, the authority said a 1,500 target set by the Inspectorate in their landmark November 2015 Changing Policing in Ireland report, just 161 garda posts capable of being civilianised have been identified.

“This calls into question the quality of engagement with the idea of civilianisation,” the authority said, adding there is a “need for leadership” and that the signs suggested it “does not currently exist”.

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