A Garda chief superintendent has been appointed to carry out a probe into allegations that some members of the force based at one of the country’s biggest garda stations made fraudulent overtime and allowances claims.
It is understood the allegations centre on the Harcourt Square Station which serves as headquarters for the Dublin Metropolitan Region and also houses top specialist units such as the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The Garda press office confirmed an investigation led by a chief superintendent was under way into allegations of fraudulent claims but would give no other details.
“The matter is ongoing and until it has been thoroughly investigated, there is no further comment,” the press office said.
Any suggestion of impropriety by members of the force in relation to their expenses claims would be an embarrassment to gardaí who have been fighting to preserve their extensive allowances regime in the face of pressure from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Senior management and garda representative bodies were before the Public Accounts Committee this time last year defending the regime against claims that many of the 108 listed allowances dated back almost a century and should be phased out.
Garda representative bodies have argued only abut 34 of the allowances are in active use but even allowing for that, according to the PAC, allowances make up 21.6% of the average garda’s pay and the total cost in a year is €240m.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has been under severe pressure to reduce pay-related costs and the Garda overtime bill has fallen dramatically in recent years — from €115m in 2008 to €42m last year.
The bill for 2013 was just over €37m up to September and is expected to come in under €40m by the end of the year. But the bill for core pay and allowances fell only slightly — from €963m in 2008 to €913m last year.
Last month, Justice Minister Alan Shatter was forced to seek a supplementary budget of almost €51m from the Department of Finance in order to pay garda wages and allowances for the rest of the year.
As part of the Haddington Road agreement, overtime costs are intended to fallfurther next year as every member of the force, up to and including inspector rank, will work an extra three days a year for free.
The PAC is likely to seek a report on the fraudulent claims allegations that surfaced over the weekend.
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