The Audit Report, which was published alongside the report of the Garda Professional Standards Unit (GPSU), said that the management of the Fixed Charge Processing Office was “competent and proactive” in addressing systematic weaknesses in the system.
However, the GPSU report had said that while there had been “significant improvements” in the operation of the cancellation system, it recommended that the FCPO be beefed up and that additional checks and oversight be put in place. These included:
An enforcement team within the FCPO to chase down “persistent evaders” of penalty points notices.
The Director of Public Prosecutions examine cancellation applications from gardaí who claim they were using private vehicles on police duties.
In addition, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald took a further step — to the surprise of many — of establishing an independent oversight office, headed by a judge, to inspect the cancellation system.
In his comments to the Irish Examiner, Sgt McCabe said these reforms “will stop the abuse of the system”.
He singled out the creation of an enforcement team inside the FCPO in Thurles as particularly important. “The enforcement team is needed and it will tighten up on people evading the notices,” he said.
The report recommended this unit be set up to investigate the large number of penalty points — in the region of 6,000 a year — which are cancelled because the notices are returned undelivered.
Information provided to the GPSU by Sgt McCabe showed 23 of the 115 repeat offenders he highlighted had a total of 56 cancellations under the “Undelivered An Post” category. The report recommended almost half of these cases be investigated.
The 120-page report showed the 115 repeat offenders involved 84 members of the public and 31 gardaí.
The report said the enforcement unit should comprise a sergeant and four gardaí. This dedicated team will work inside the FCPO. Both the commissioner and the justice minister backed the recommendation.
Published alongside the GPSU report was the 16-page report of the Garda Internal Audit Section (GIAS). It conducted audit field work in the FCPO and at Garda HQ in Phoenix Park between July and September 2014. The GPSU began its work in late August, involving a full week in the FCPO.
The GIAS report said it sought to examine how the new termination procedures had been implemented since they were introduced by Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan last June.
It said proper procedures were being followed inside the FCPO and that the management was “competent and proactive in addressing systematic weaknesses”.
It said the recommendations identified in previous reports — including those of the Comptroller and Auditor General (September 2013) and the Garda Inspectorate (March 2014) — had “substantially all been implemented”.
It said the GIAS was satisfied the centralisation of decision making in the FCPO had “considerably enhanced controls” over the system.