Gardaí claims overnight pay for trips that never happened, audit says
An internal Garda audit found that some officers were claiming overnight allowances for overnight trips that did not take place.
Garda management had approved the practice instead of allowing those involved to claim overtime, according to an internal audit.
The practice came to light after an anonymous complaint saw Garda College management carry out an initial review before asking internal auditors to do a full investigation.
The audit of travel and subsistence payments at Garda College also uncovered other issues, including the claiming of travel and subsistence expenses by members not stationed there without prior approval.
It was also discovered that some grievance forms were not properly completed while others contained “vague descriptions” of the nature and location of the work performed.
Internal auditors said they could only provide “limited” assurance on the controls in place due to what they described as the “significance” of their findings.
The audit reviewed 14 travel and subsistence claims and found that 12 were for subsistence expenses.
He said: “Logs show that the members did not stay overnight but traveled to and from the destination each day in an official vehicle.”
Garda management said the practice was approved to avoid the officers involved having to claim overtime, which could have been even more costly.
However, internal auditors have warned that claiming unincurred expenses could be a breach of Garda’s code of ethics commitment to honesty.
He added: “Management’s sanction of employees claiming non-taxable allowances when the correct claim would be taxable overtime can result in underpayment of tax by both the employee and the organization. ”
The audit indicated that it may be necessary to contact the Revenue Commissioners and the Comptroller and Auditor General after a full review of payments.
Internal auditors also said any overpayments should be recovered and staff training may be needed to reduce “the risk of non-compliance” in the future.
In response, Garda management suggested that “technical underpayments” were more likely and that the practice of approving non-existent nights had ceased.
Management told listeners: “Training at An Garda Síochána was suspended during the financial recession more than a decade ago.
“When training resumed in 2009/10, a practice was endorsed within the former Garda College, and found to be within the ethics of the Garda Finance Code, and the organization in general with respect to concerns fiscal prudence, which advocated that all expenses incurred as a result of the provision of training at remote Garda College centers be kept to a minimum.
Furthermore, the audit also found evidence that the gardaí did not complete application forms correctly or provided only vague descriptions of the tasks performed.
The auditors warned that incorrectly claimed forms could result in a loss to An Garda Síochána and that the exact nature and location of the tasks should be specified.
Issues with pre-approval of expenditure by officers not stationed at Garda College were also noted in the internal audit.
He said pre-approval of all travel and living expenses would have to take place, otherwise there would be an additional risk of financial loss to the organization.
A Garda spokesperson said: “Following the receipt of an anonymous complaint regarding an alleged incorrect claim for overnight allowance by some Garda College staff, Garda College management has carried out an initial review based on a sample of reimbursement requests.
“It showed that there was a problem and management asked Garda’s internal audit unit to carry out an audit on this.
“Following the results of the immersion sample, the incorrect claiming of these expenses has been stopped by Garda College. An organisation-wide directive was issued on this last year.
“In this case, as this practice had been accepted by local management, internal discipline does not apply to anyone who claimed expenses in this manner.”
The spokesperson said a working group had been set up within An Garda Síochána to examine “political and cultural issues” regarding the claiming of expenses and allowances in the force.