The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has welcomed a €1m increase in its budget for next year.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the increase — representing a 13% rise in GSOC funding — was to “strengthen the role and remit” of the commission.
A spokeswoman for GSOC said: “We welcome the provision of additional funding to resource the Garda Ombudsman’s activities in 2015. We deal with over 2,000 complaints per annum, with already stretched resources.
“Therefore, any allocation of additional resources that can go towards providing for a quality, independent oversight of policing is good news.”
From the minister’s statement and Budget 2015 documentation, the extra resources are to enable the commission to carry out expanded functions under the Government’s policing reforms.
Under the Garda Síochána Amendment Bill 2014, published in August, the responsibilities and powers of GSOC will increase, requiring additional resources. These include:
- Extending the time-limit for complaints (from six months to 12 months) — resulting in an increased number of complaints;
- Giving GSOC the right to conduct investigations on its own initiative into policies/practices and procedures in the force;
- Granting GSOC new powers to conduct surveillance on garda members and intercept their communications.
In addition, the commission was given the responsibility during the summer of investigating complaints made by gardaí themselves — previously investigated by the confidential recipient.
GSOC’s funding for 2014 was €7.9m, meaning the extra funding will bring its budget to €8.9m in 2015. It is understood that GSOC overspent this year, with a total expenditure of €8.4m.
The budget for 2015 brings the commission back to just under 2011 funding levels (€9.24m).
Staffing levels have been an ongoing issue at GSOC, with numbers standing at 78 last July. Under the Department of Justice’s workforce plan 2013, the commission has a staffing sanction of 86.
Currently, it is down a deputy director of investigations, two senior investigators and four other staff.
Last May, the commission made a case to the department for an extra €1m in funding to allow it conduct “extensive” investigations into the cancellation of penalty points. This case covers allegations made by whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Meanwhile, the Garda Inspectorate, which received €250,000 extra in the budget, said plans for spending the money would be made in due course.
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