An internal audit of the Republic of Ireland’s national police service, An Garda Síochána, has raised concern over the force’s management of a multi-million euro IT contract.
In a report, the Garda Internal Audit Section (GIAS) said it found that elements of the contract with consulting firm Accenture were “not best practice”.
It said Accenture was paid €26.5m alone in 2016 for work done across various projects but there was a lack of a paper trail covering a key financial agreement between the Garda and the firm.
The report found “no documentary evidence” to show how the force ended up agreeing to revised rates of pay for different grades of skilled Accenture personnel, when updating the terms of their original 2009 contract in 2016.
When the audit team asked Garda management how the new rates of pay with Accenture were decided, they were told the new rates had been “verbally agreed” between a senior manager in the force and Accenture, with no paper trail on the force’s side.
“Best practice would have ensured documented records of these discussions and agreements,” GIAS said.
The report also found that “a much weaker system of accountability” was applied to how contractors working for Accenture were required to record the hours that they had worked, compared to other private sector contracts.
GIAS noted that the requirement on private contractors to record the hours they had worked on IT services applied to all “with exception of those engaged by Accenture”.
The auditors concluded that they could provide only “limited assurances that adequate controls exist in the management of resources in relation to the largest contractor [Accenture]”.
Alan Kelly, vice chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said the revelations were “very disturbing”.
“The volumes of money we are talking about here are quite huge – they are in the multi-million euro category,” he said.
“We now see from this internal audit from An Garda Síochána, the tendering process, the procurement process and recording of hours leaves an awful lot to be desired – this is an issue that is going to have to come back before the PAC.”
David Cullinane, member of the Oireachtas PAC, said the PAC must examine Garda tendering practices as “a matter or urgency”.
“Failure to comply with public procurement rules is rampant across the public sector and they are routinely being ignored by departments and state agencies,” he said.
“The PAC should examine the entire issue of public procurement to see in the first instance if the rules are fit for purpose – which I don’t believe they are – and even the rules that are there, which I believe are too weak, if they are not being followed then there needs to be more robust penalties and sanctions put in place.”
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.