PAC files show rifts among top Garda civil servants

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

Fresh Garda documents sent to the Public Accounts Committee reveal deep divisions among senior civil servants within An Garda Síochána.

The revelations expose further fractures at Garda HQ and follow revelations of serious differences between senior civil servants — including HR boss John Barrett, internal auditor Niall Kelly and top statistician Gurchand Singh — and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

However, the latest Garda documents sent to the PAC highlight even more severe divisions — which are expressed vehemently in some files — between civil servants, namely Mr Kelly and finance director Michael Culhane.

The divisions are graphically captured in one letter sent by Mr Culhane to Mr Kelly on February 20, 2017, a month before the internal audit report on financial irregularities at Garda College Templemore was released.

The letter was sent by Mr Culhane in response to Mr Kelly’s circulation of the draft interim audit.

Mr Culhane said it was “not acceptable” that his comments and observations had not been reflected in the draft.

He accused Mr Kelly of making a number of “outrageous comments”.

Mr Culhane listed several incidents in which he claimed Mr Kelly made “verbal allegations” that he claimed were witnessed.

He alleged that Mr Kelly had told junior staff at the finance section that what was going on in Templemore was comparable to the charity Console.

Mr Culhane further claimed that Mr Kelly had asserted in a meeting with a Templemore superintendent that he believed the college had “offshore bank accounts”.

Mr Culhane claimed this was “without a scintilla of evidence to substantiate such a ridiculous claim”.

He said Mr Kelly also told a superintendent that “there was evidence of fraud in the college”.

Mr Culhane said he had previously questioned Mr Kelly’s reports and their “unnecessarily negative tone”.

He added: “You have effectively set yourself up as the ‘judge, jury and executioner’.”

The documents sent to PAC include a letter dated December 14, 2010, from Mr Kelly to Deputy Commissioner Nacie Rice regarding Mr Culhane.

In it, Mr Kelly said he had been “trying to engage in discussions and get management responses from the Finance Directorate for some time”.

The letter details what Mr Kelly said were differences of legal and regulatory opinion between him and Mr Culhane on who had responsibility for financial management of Templemore.

In a letter to Commissioner Fachtna Murphy in September 2009, Mr Rice said it was important to point out that all of the limited companies and committees that had been established in Templemore were formed at a time “when there was no money made available by the state to develop and improve the welfare and sporting facilities”.

He said: “The only means at the time to develop and improve the social and sporting culture was by the formation of the said committees and companies.”

He said he did “not share the very negative views” that permeated a report on the college by then chief administrative officer John Leamy.

A letter sent by Mr Leamy on April 16, 2008, to Commissioner Murphy, and copied to Mr Culhane, said significant breaches and poor financial controls at Templemore exposed the organisation to “serious reputational damage unless addressed immediately”.

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