ODCE admits Anglo investigations were draining resources

The State’s botched investigation against ex-banker Seán FitzPatrick was undermined by the fact that untrained officials were tasked with taking key evidence because other prioritised Anglo investigations were draining vital resources.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) made the admission as it separately conceded its formal Government-sought review into what happened will be limited because of the short timeframe it was given to investigate the failings.

In the ODCE’s 2016 annual report, which was published yesterday, director Ian Drennan referenced the “unprecedented” case and that the reality is the office was “simply not equipped at that time to run multiple parallel investigations on the scale and complexity involved”.

Specifically, Mr Drennan said the investigations into Anglo officials Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer “absorbed resources” to a much greater extent than had been expected, affecting the FitzPatrick investigation in the process.

Mr Drennan said that, “against the backdrop” of the resources issue, a decision was taken to allow “a small number of civilian staff” to take statements from Ernst & Young in relation to the FitzPatrick case.

However, he conceded “none of these individuals had any training or experience of taking witness statements” and that the appropriateness of the actions were overlooked.

The situation resulted in trial judge John Aylmer calling into question the Ernst & Young statements and the ODCE’s approach, contributing to Mr FitzPatrick ultimately being cleared of 27 finance-related charges.

However, while admitting the situation in the annual report, Mr Drennan said “no organisation is perfect”.

The official annual report comments came as the ODCE admitted its Government-sought review into what happened will be limited because of the short time-frame it has been given.

In May, then jobs and enterprise minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor demanded the ODCE provide a report into the botched investigation by mid-June.

This report was provided to her successor , Frances Fitzgerald, on June 23 and sent to the attorney general Seamus Woulfe on June 26.

It had been hoped the ODCE report would shed light on what went wrong.

However, in the statement released yesterday alongside its 2016 annual report, the ODCE warned it will be limited in what it finds as an extensive review “would not have been feasible within the timeframe set”.

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