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Saturday 21 October 2017

'Unbelievable' Garda auditors weren't told of problems - Kelly

Labour TD Alan Kelly
Labour TD Alan Kelly

Labour Party TD Alan Kelly has said it is "unbelievable" that Garda management did not tell internal auditors about concerns over bogus breath tests or issues with around 14,500 convictions relating to penalty points.

The Garda Audit Committee has said it is "very concerned" that it was "totally unaware" of the issues before they were publicly revealed by the force in March.

The committee's 2016 annual report states that it was late publishing the document due to the high-profile media announcements.

There is an internal Garda probe into how almost a million bogus breath tests came to be recorded between late 2011 and the end of October 2016, as well as how more than 14,500 other motorists ended up being wrongly convicted of traffic offences.

Mr Kelly, a senior member of the Dail's powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) - which has been examining Garda finances - described the failure to tell the auditors about the issues as "incredible stuff" and "unbelievable".

"Obviously the relationship between the internal audit function and senior management in An Garda Siochana isn't functioning," he told RTE radio.

The Audit Committee's report states that Garda management became aware of the legal problems involving fixed charged penalties during 2016.

Risks

Mr Kelly said the fact that the committee did not learn of the issue until March this year raised questions about how auditors could do their jobs.

"How can they actually assess risk and costs to the taxpayer if they are not provided with information?" he said.

Mr Kelly added that the matter is of "serious concern" and the PAC will have to examine it in the autumn.

The Garda Audit Committee's 2016 report missed its March deadline and was signed off on at the end of May.

It says that, given the issues relating to the recording of breath-test data, the committee also has "concerns regarding data quality across the force".

In relation to the legal problem arising from the fixed charge penalty system, the report says the committee has been "placed in the unusual position of being unable to offer any view concerning the cost implications of these events, or the adequacy of the remedies that are being implemented."

The report says both issues are "unresolved" and the incoming Audit Committee should seek "full explanations from Garda management".

A Garda spokesman last night said: "An Garda Siochana highly values the role of the independent Garda Internal Audit Committee and will seek to ensure it is kept fully informed of any issues relevant to its work."

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