The practice of gardaí receiving allowances for carrying out non-essential work on public holidays represents a “culture of entitlement", according to the force’s own auditors.
The hard-hitting criticism of the practice is contained in a report by the Garda Internal Audit Service which estimated the cost of allowances for staff working at Garda HQ over 12 public holidays was adding €800,000 to the Garda pay bill each year. It found many claimants were not engaged in “high visibility” duties.
“Allowances are not intended to be used as supplemental income,” the auditors observed.
The allowance can be equal to two or three times basic pay, depending on rank and whether or not the public holiday is a rostered rest day.
Based on its findings, the GIAS recommended that non-essential work should not be necessary or undertaken as a matter of routine on public holidays in future.
Garda auditors said they could only provide “limited assurance” that the payment of public holiday allowances to gardaí for non-essential duties was efficient and represented good value for money, especially as some gardaí would also be entitled to an extra day off work.
They questioned if the duties performed by such gardaí were necessary and effective for the prevention of crime or contributing to visible policing.
The report, which was released under freedom of information legislation, examined the payment of €201,000 in allowances to gardaí based in Garda HQ for working on three public holidays over Christmas and New Year in 2018/19.
The total spend on public holiday allowances over the Christmas period for the entire 13,800 strong force was €4.95m with approximately 52% of all gardaí rostered to work on Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Day.
The GIAS said a high attendance rate by gardaí at Garda HQ over the three public holidays at Christmas was questionable and the duties performed on the public holidays required justification. It said management needed to put significant focus on reviewing the necessity for gardaí to perform non-essential duties on Sundays and public holidays.
Garda attached to various divisions and districts told auditors that rosters could not be changed.
However, the GIAS pointed out that Westmanstown Agreement on working hours allowed for flexibility and adjustments to rosters in line with policing needs.
The auditors found no evidence that civilian staff worked on public holidays or weekends and said the issue raised the question of discrimination as gardaí were perceived to be facilitated to work rostered duty in sections where attendance was generally required during normal office hours.
In reply to the GIAS, Garda management said various sections examined by the audit were operational in nature and were required to have a presence every day including public holidays but that a working group was also looking at the issue of reforming the roster system.
Senior gardaí also pointed out that the replacement of gardaí by civilian staff wherever possible was a priority within the force.
One senior officer told GIAS that changing rest days to avoid public holidays would not achieve any major savings as it would result in gardaí working more Saturdays and Sundays which also attracted allowances.