Gardaí claimed allowances for overnight trips that never happened
9th December 2022
Gardaí were claiming allowances for overnight trips that had not taken place in an underhand practice to avoid management having to pay overtime, a shocking internal audit has found.
The practice came to light after an anonymous complaint saw Garda College management carry out an initial review before asking internal auditors to conduct a full inquiry.
Garda chiefs, who allowed the practice, were warned it could be a breach of the force’s own ethics code.
The audit of travel and subsistence payments at the Garda College also discovered other issues including the claiming of travel and subsistence expenses by members not stationed there without pre-approval.
It also found claim forms that were not properly filled out while others had ‘vague descriptions’ of the nature and location of duties carried out.
The audit looked at 14 travel and subsistence claims and found 12 of them involved claims for overnight expenses.
It said: ‘Logbooks show the members did not stay overnight but travelled to and from the destination each day in an official vehicle.’ Garda management said the practice had been approved to avoid the officer involved having to claim overtime, which could have proven even more expensive.
However, internal auditors warned claiming for expenses that were not incurred could be a breach of the Garda code of ethics commitment on honesty.
It added: ‘Management sanctioning of employees claiming allowances that are tax-free when the correct claim would be for taxable overtime may result in an underpayment of tax by both the employee and the organisation.’
The audit said contact might need to be made with both the Revenue Commissioners and the Comptroller and Auditor General after a full review of the payments.
Internal auditors also said any possible overpayments needed to be recouped and that staff training may be required to reduce ‘the risk of non-compliance’ in the future.
In response, Garda management suggested that ‘technical underpayments’ had been more likely and that the practice of approving non-existent overnights had ceased.
Management told auditors: ‘Training in An Garda Síochána was suspended during the financial recession over a decade ago. On the resumption of training in 2009/10, a practice was endorsed within the then Garda College, and believed to be within the ethos of the Garda Finance Code, and the organisation generally in relation to fiscal prudence, which advocated that all expenses incurred as a result of delivering training at centres away from the Garda College be kept to a minimum.’
Separately, the audit found evidence of gardaí not completing claim forms correctly or providing vague descriptions of duties carried out.
Auditors warned incorrectly claimed forms could lead to a loss for An Garda and that the exact nature and location of duties should be specified.
Issues around pre-approval of expenses by officers who were not stationed at the Garda College were also noted in the internal audit.
It said pre-approval for all travel and subsistence should take place or else there was a further risk of financial loss to the organisation.
A Garda spokesman said that a working group had been set up within the force to look at ‘policy and cultural issues’ around the claiming of expenses and allowances across An Garda Síochána.