Saturday 26 May 2018

Probe as Gardai spend €62,000 of taxpayers' money on tv packages

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A major probe is under way to establish how gardai spent nearly €62,000 of taxpayers' money on subscription TV.

The Herald can reveal An Garda Siochana is conducting an internal investigation into payments made to bill-paying TV providers, including SKy and Virgin Media.

The probe comes after a six-month investigation by this newspaper found that the force spent nearly €62,000 in TV fees over a two-year period.

A Saorview box - which has access to RTE 1, RTE 2, TV3 and a range of radio stations - can be bought for a once-off payment of just €50.

Senior garda officers have refused to disclose the total amount of money paid to Sky Sports or horse racing channels.

A senior garda source said the issue was being investigated.


"There certainly appears to be ... that someone has potentially bought a package that wasn't gone through the proper procedure," the source added.

Although the gardai revealed the total amount paid to TV providers in 2014 and 2015, a garda spokesman said the organisation would not disclose how much money was paid to Sky Sports or horse racing channels.

The spokesman added the release of this information would prejudice the internal investigation.

"An Garda Siochana is currently conducting an internal investigation into certain payments made to TV service providers," the garda spokesman confirmed.

"The organisation is not in a position to release those records to you at the current time as they are the subject of an ongoing internal investigation.

"An Garda Siochana has not released administrative records at this time ... to do so would prejudice this investigation.

"It would not be appropriate to comment on this further at this time," the spokesman added.

Earlier this year the Herald requested documents from An Garda Siochana that showed the details of payments made to TV contractors and companies in 2015 and 2014.

The Garda Freedom of Information (FOI) unit granted the request in February, which revealed that €31,574 was paid to TV companies in 2014, and a further €29,749 was paid in 2015.

The fees provided TV services to Garda headquarters, Harcourt Street, and a number of other stations.

All payments were made to Sky Business, UPC Communications Ireland and Virgin Media Ireland.

However, when a breakdown of the amount paid to Sky Sports or horse-racing channels was requested, both the Garda Press Office and the Garda FOI unit declined to reveal the costs.

Instead, the Garda FOI Unit advised that a new freedom of information request - which can take more than eight weeks - would have to be submitted to get the records.

A request to release the documents was submitted in May.

However, in July the Garda FOI unit refused to disclose the amount paid.

In refusing the information, a garda superintendent argued said the "business arrangements" for payments to TV providers were "currently being enquired into".

"I have decided that it is not in the public interest to release the records and additionally it is potentially harmful to the ongoing investigative procedures," said the superintendent.

"The release of the records at this time would be contrary to the purpose of the inquiry procedures and could reasonably be expected to impair the lawful methods, plans and procedures employed for the purpose of conducting confidential inquiries.


"The inquiry process cannot be exposed or subjected to public scrutiny prior to the completion of the process," added the superintendent.

Gardai also refused to release letters, correspondences and documents regarding TV subscriptions.

The gardai also defended splashing out thousands of euros on TV channels.

"The use of media in all forms - inclusive of print, online, social and visual - is an important part of the Garda Organisations overall strategy to keep abreast of current and developing crime and public interest related stories," said a spokeswoman.

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