Bord na gCon report – A cleverly written whitewash?

A special investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General into the activities of the Greyhound Board (Bord No gCon) has found evidence of mis-management and financial irregularities over a ten year period up to 2006.

Despite these findings the C&AG also found that in general the funds of Bord na gCon were properly applied.

It should be noted at this point that the C&AG was appointed auditor of Bord na gCon in 2001. In his report the C&AG states; “In my annual audits of Bord na gCon I have satisfied myself that the broad framework of financial administration and internal control was appropriate.”

So the state agency responsible for both auditing and investigating Bord na gCon was satisfied that the broad framework of financial administration and internal controls were appropriate during a period when very serious irregularities occurred.

The core work of the C&AGs office should also be kept in mind as we analyse this very questionable report.

The core work of the Office is the conduct of financial audits which culminates in an annual opinion on all accounts of State and State-sponsored bodies falling within the audit remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG). This work entails examining the accounts and underlying records and transactions of those entities in order to ensure that
• the accounts properly reflect the transactions
• the transactions recorded in the accounts are regular – have been applied for the purposes intended and in accordance with rules governing them.
For each account an examination is also made of the internal financial control arrangements.

We at Public Inquiry would ask – Why was a state agency that has responsibility for signing off on the finances of a semi state body also investigating that same body? At a minimum there is a serious conflict of interest.

We would also call into question the C&AGs conclusion that “in general the funds of Bord na gCon were properly applied.” A look at just some of the more serious irregularities clearly contradicts that conclusion.

A building overseer was given authority over a €12 million redevelopment of Shelbourne Greyhound Park between 2000 and 2002 in the absence of the managing director due to illness.

When this overseer was in charge, control over the project was not being exercised by either Bord na gCon or its subsidiary, Shelbourne Greyhound Stadium Limited.

The same overseer was given a contract to manage security at Shelbourne Park without advertising or a recruitment process.

The same overseer organised a fraud (See Paschal Taggart’s comments at Appendix D) involving the purchase of a ‘new’ generator that cost €124,704 but which was subsequently found to be 20 years old.

The overseer had instructed the services consultant retained to manage the tender process to add to the list of those tendering for the contract a company of which he, the overseer, was a director. Not surprisingly, that company got the contract.

After discovering this fraud, Bord na gCon sought legal advice and were told that it would be futile to take the matter any further as there was insufficient evidence.

Despite the central part played by the overseer in this scandal the contractual relationship he had with Bord na gCon remains unclear.

Obviously, the overseer is the central character in all these activities but when I questioned a spokesperson at the C&AGs office I received a somewhat muddled response.

Why weren’t names named, the overseer, for example?
It’s our policy not to include names in our reports.
Who makes that policy?
It’s an office decision, an internal decision.
If I ask for names can I get them?
There are names at Appendix C.
But it doesn’t give the name of the overseer.
The overseer wasn’t examined, the overseer can’t be found.
He can’t be found? You must be joking?
We had no one to correspond with.
But this man played a major part in the fraud.
We were examining Bord na gCon; the overseer is not and never was an employee of Bord na gCon. As auditor of Bord na gCon, we’re not the police; we don’t go chasing people around.
But surely somebody in Bord na gCon must know who he is?
No, we went and enquired and, we know who he is, just can’t contact him.
Could you give me his name; I might be able to track him down?
I’d have to come back to you on that one.

Fortunately, through an impeccable source, Public Inquiry has learned that the infamous overseer is a Mr. Dan Lannon. The report says Mr. Lannon has “extensive experience in the construction industry”, which could mean a number of things, including possible conflicts of interest.

It is crystal clear that the C&AG has failed in his duty to ensure that transactions of public bodies are in accordance with legal authorities governing them. It is also clear that there are still many unanswered questions surrounding this scandal and that the report submitted by the C&AG is nothing more than a cleverly written whitewash.

Copy to:
Comptroller and Auditor General
Bord na gCon
Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism

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