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Other Questions. - Departmental Inquiries.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

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 6. Ms Lynch Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  if the internal audit unit of his Department has completed its inquiries into the overpayment to a company for the supply of tyres to the Garda Síochána; if any of the overpaid money has been recovered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18497/02]

Mr. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I compliment Deputy Rabbitte on his industry and enterprise in putting down so many questions.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte It is a pity there is no investment scheme to go with it.

Mr. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell If he had been more industrious and put down more questions, we would have had more time to deal with this issue.

A draft report on the investigation into the system of tyre purchases and fitting from Advance Pitstop has been prepared by the internal audit unit of my Department. However, it is awaiting the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions on the Garda investigation into this matter before finalising the report.

With regard to the question of overpayments and recovery of overpayments, Deputies may recall that on 9 November 2001 the Comptroller and Auditor General submitted his value for money report on the purchase of tyres by the Garda Síochána. In that report he estimated that overpayments to Advance Pitstop were to the value of £208,000, or €264,106. This was on the basis that the proper notification of price increases had not been provided. When this matter was being discussed in detail before the Committee of Public Accounts on 8 January 2002, the Secretary General of the Department explained that there was a question mark over the issue of notification of price increases but that Advance Pitstop had agreed there were overpayments in some areas. However, the company claimed that there were underpayments in other areas and it offered a net credit note for £102,000, or €129,513.

The Department has not accepted that figure as being definitive and is pursuing the issue as to exactly what level of overpayments is properly recoverable. In the meantime, as an interim step, the value of the net credit note of £102,000, or €129,513, has been deducted from payments to [1110] Advance Pitstop in respect of subsequent purchases.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Has the work of the internal audit unit been completed in respect of this matter? Have any changes been implemented in the tyre purchasing scheme in the Garda Síochána? Is the Minister aware it has been reported that one of the main persons involved in this matter is now a stakeholder in a motor factors shop, no doubt bringing his expertise in purchasing to bear in his new employment? Has the Minister had any discussions with the Garda Commissioner about the practices that were revealed by the Comptroller and Auditor General?

Mr. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The investigation being carried out by the internal audit unit is continuing. Its work includes matters that were not the subject of examination by the Comptroller and Auditor General, particularly the role played by a named member of the Garda Síochána. The internal audit unit raised certain queries that may be of a criminal nature with the Garda authorities regarding the ongoing criminal investigation. These irregularities were also the subject of a separate criminal investigation by the Garda which has forwarded a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The report of the internal audit unit will be furnished to me and the Secretary General, in his capacity as Accounting Officer, and I will keep the House fully informed of the outcome of the internal audit report. However, unlike the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, it is likely to focus on potentially criminal behaviour. The House will appreciate that care must be taken to respect the rights of individuals and to ensure nothing is done that might prejudice potential criminal or civil proceedings. It might not be possible, therefore, to publish the report of the internal audit unit in full at this point or in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Has the Minister had any discussions with the Garda Commissioner about the malfeasance that has been revealed in this matter? Does he agree that while senior gardaí charged with these responsibilities were touring the world on holidays paid for by the company, the taxpayer was picking up the bill? Is this the type of practice the taxpayer is entitled to expect from senior members of the Garda Síochána?

Mr. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I regard these events with the utmost gravity. The standards which appear to have been exhibited in these matters require immediate and thorough investigation. If misbehaviour is laid at any individual's door, the most serious consequences must follow. The public sees the Garda Síochána as the protector and upholder of the rule of law. Anything in the public service that has the taint of corruption is a mat[1111] ter of the greatest seriousness but even more so in the context of the Garda Síochána.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte What changes, if any, have been implemented in purchasing policy in the Garda Síochána?

Mr. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell A new tendering process has been put in place and will shortly be implemented. These matters must be carried out in compliance with European law and national procurement procedures. That process is now in train.


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