By Karl Weinmann
Despite findings in over a decade of audits and reports about Templemore Garda College’s financial organisation, very few changes have been made. Serious issues and recommendations made by the Garda Internal Audit Section (GIAS) have been ignored. More scrutiny is on the exchequer with the UK’s exit from the EU and other EU states looking on with growing uncertainty that the region may be facing down the second euro currency crisis.
The 2017 audit signed by Niall Kelly, Head of Internal Audit, recognised some changes were needed since the Directorate report; however, the responsibility of college management to align with a string of GIAS recommendations on serious issues are still not renewed. In fact, the report states “GIAS can provide no assurance the internal management at control systems in place to manage the finance at the Garda College are adequate”.
The Garda College financial control is missing the standard expected by the Standards in Public Office Commission by a long way. Reported by GIAS; These issues were identified in a Finance Directorate Report about the college in 2008 when GIAS discovered that the problems were very serious, and then fresh plans for audits in the Garda College organisation were made.
Templemore Garda Síochána College is located at McCan Barracks, Templemore in County Tipperary. Garda recruits have received training here since 1964. The Walsh report, a review of Templemore Garda College in the late 1980s recommended the Garda College should be upgraded to a third level education standard.
Weekly capitation grant/fee for the provision of food and lodgings for students were calculated in the 80’s. The Garda College restaurant and shop are separately run to the Garda College financial control. The report states these were never set up as companies. And according to the 2017 GIAS report, the Garda College Sports Field Company LTD by guarantee with four directors (then serving Gardaí) was set up in 1993 for developing sports facilities for the college.
The Financial Procedures in the Garda College Templemore interim Audit Report an internal audit from the Gardaí and brought up in front of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) concluded – “GIAS are satisfied that the Imprest Accounts are a true and fair record of transactions.” The total expenditure in the period audited from the 1st of January 2009 to 31st of March 2016 from the Garda vote relating to the Garda College was €112m.
The capitalisation grant covering costs for student accommodation and board was ‘originally’ supposed to break even. Exchequer Funds cross-subsidised the restaurant in such a way that in effect leads to a substantial cash surplus that was not included in the Appropriation Account subject to public scrutiny. GIAS site the term “Exchequer Extra Receipts” in the interim Audit Report.
The Chief Superintendent of the college in March 2010 responded to the Directorate Report of April 2008 stating 13 bank accounts were closed, a superintendent rank college administrator was established and new processes were put in place to be reviewed on a weekly basis. The 2017 report outlines only two out of twelve recommendations from the Directorate Report 2008 were implemented and when the Commissioner corresponding with the Chief Administrative office agreed on six points, none were implemented.
The Directorate Financial Report was conducted to analyse the Garda College during a period when the Irish Government saw more prosperity than at any other time in Irish history. At this time, across the state, the highest housing prices, GDP and employment were recorded. Ireland was considered a European state that punched way above its weight.
This date is important because at this time in April 2008, GIAS clearly discovered serious financial control issues in the Templemore Garda College that were not compliant with the Government’s version of how the state expected the college to run as a Government or partially run Government organisation. GIAS discovered serious issues that spurred them to enter into an unplanned, not routine action; what you might describe as an emergency college audit. Yet, still, when the 2017 audit report is published after decades of recommendations, the theme of the 2017 Audit is bleak.
Bond markets are more uncertain when cultural changes in the EU and the single market are volatile. This would greatly influence the Irish economy. If economic changes stemming from Schengen counties (EU states excluding Ireland, UK, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus) choosing to follow the UK out of the EU, a movement expressly debated in Italy, Greece and Switzerland, all with bigger GDP’s than Ireland, a contingency plan is needed to make what could accrue in a very short time frame a smooth transition.
The Templemore Garda College Bar was closed in 2009. No new recruits would be enrolled and it was operating at its core. The College reopened in September 2014 and in four years nearly 1800 new Gardaí are serving communities across the Republic since the reopen. When the college closed in 2009, headlines pointed to the financial crash, and in the time it was closed it opened for a “small number of events”.
In 2008, Anglo shares plummet 30 pc and the US bank Bear Stearns collapses one month before the Directorate report. It would take two years for the College management to respond. The issues were rejected by the college in 2010.
Also in 2010, the Governor of the Irish Central Bank Patrick Patrick Hohohan informs the European Central Bank (ECB) Irish Banks including Anglo would not roll over on ECB liquidity who were dependent on the Central Bank’s Emergency Liquidity (ELA).
Former Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan would later say the matters first came to the attention of the Garda executive in July 2015. In 2017, Ms O’Sullivan stated; “While some practices as identified in the interim audit should not have happened and are certainly well short of modern financial procedures and controls, and public sector governance and financial procedures, it should be noted that the interim audit report found that the majority of the expenditure in the Garda College is managed to a high standard and is compliant with the Garda finance code.”
When Templemore opened for business once more, the College enrolled new Gardaí Trainees for the first time in four years. A thrilled Enda Kenny announced to the press that “Templemore will never close again.”
On July 6th 2015, the Executive Director of Human Resources and People Development (HR&PD) delivered a report to the Chief Administrative Officer entitled Summary of the issues arising from reports and discussions held at the Garda College, an analysis of the 2008 Finance Directorate Report corresponded with the Garda College on these matters and an update to 2015. “Executive Director HR&PD, in order that the Chief Administrative Office could brief the Garda Audit Committee at the upcoming meeting on 2015th July 2015. It should be noted that no discussion of these issues occurred at this Audit Committee meeting in July 2015.”
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