Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) has called on Garda (Irish Police) Commissioner Martin Callinan to withdraw a threat he made of disciplinary action against a serving Garda member in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today. The Garda Commissioner was giving evidence to the PAC into irregularities in the management of the Garda Fixed Charge Notice (FCN) system that records penalty points against motorists.
During the hearings, Chair of the PAC, John McGuinness TD announced that the Committee would be inviting a serving Garda to give evidence to the Committee to discuss evidence of concerns about wrongful cancellations of penalty points. The cancellations are believed to have led to the potential loss of millions of euro for the Irish taxpayer.
The Commissioner advised Deputy McGuinness that he did not want to be ‘usurped by subordinates’ and warned that he would consider taking disciplinary action against the Garda if he gave evidence to the Committee.
‘The Commissioner should be aware that Gardaí are legally entitled to report concerns of apparent wrongdoing within An Garda Síochána to members of the Oireachtas. It’s disappointing that he is now threatening disciplinary action against a serving Garda for availing of that legal right’, said John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland.
‘We have written to the Commissioner and Minister Alan Shatter to remind them that penalisation of whistleblowers reporting alleged fraud is a criminal offence, and to ensure that whistleblowers are protected from any further reprisals by Garda management. We’ve also called on Minister Shatter to allow the Garda Inspectorate to undertake an independent review of Garda whistleblower procedures’, added Mr Devitt.
- TI Ireland, through its Speak Up helpline, has been providing advice and support to the Garda whistleblowers. It is satisfied that the two whistleblowers acted lawfully and responsibly in sharing information about irregularities in the management of Garda records and are entitled to legal protection under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, and the Criminal Justice Act 2011.
- Section 62 (4) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 allows for a serving or retired member of An Garda Síochána to report a concern about apparent wrongdoing to members of the Oireachtas.
- Section 14 of the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007 S.I. 168 of 2007 prohibits disciplinary action from being taken against members for reporting malpractice.
- Section 20 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 provides that an employer shall not penalise or threaten penalisation against an employee, or cause or permit any other person to penalise or threaten penalisation against an employee for making a disclosure with respect to suspected breaches of a scheduled offence.
- Section 21(2) also provides that an employer who contravenes section 20 shall be guilty of an offence.
- Files containing evidence of wrongdoing by senior ranking Gardaí have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Comptroller and Auditor General has also noted ‘grounds for concern’ arising from the cancellation of penalty points without appropriate authority and potential significant loss of public monies (http://www.audgen.gov.ie/documents/annualreports/2012/report/en/Chapter07.pdf). These concerns arose from confidential reports made by the Garda whistleblowers.
- TI Ireland has no relevant information on the matter which is not already in the public domain.
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