Tuesday, 4 February 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
13. Mr. Cotter asked the Minister for Justice if he will outline (a) the recommendations made in the Garda Authorities' report on the Fraud Squad which have been implemented to date (b) the recommendations that remain to be implemented and (c) his views on whether the fraud squad are equipped to speedily and comprehensively investigate allegations of financial fraud; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Burke: As I indicated in my response to the priority question put down by Deputy Seán Barrett on 22 October 1991, the recommendations made by the Garda authorities in their review of the Garda Fraud Squad will be given effect. Arrangements are already being made to implement those recommendations which are “internal” to the squad involving improvements in manpower, organisation and training.
Other recommendations, such as the strengthening of links between the squad and external professional bodies, involve somewhat more difficult issues which require further consideration — for example, to assess precisely how these links may be effected and to what extent they may be influenced by the outcome of the Law Reform Commission's wide ranging review of the law on dishonesty.  For the avoidance of any doubt I should make it clear that I have accepted the principles underlying these recommendations also; it is simply a matter of assessing in consultation with the Garda and other interested parties how best to implement them.
There are also, of course, the wider issues of the investigative powers that are required to deal with serious fraud cases, whether a complementary serious fraud investigation structure on the lines of the British Serious Fraud Office should be established and how the Garda plans, now in course of implementation, would affect or mesh with that concept. These matters are currently the subject of examination in my Department. Work is proceeding on this examination as quickly as possible but because it involves complex issues of law and structure it is not something which can be rushed. I understand also that the Law Reform Commission's forthcoming report on dishonesty is likely to have recommendations to make on these issues and it would be very useful to have the commission's views before decisions are taken by the Government.
Returning to the Garda authorities' recommendations on the fraud squad themselves, I am satisfied that the implementation of those recommendations, which is already in hand, together with the new legislative provisions being enacted in the Criminal Evidence Bill and the further legislation which will follow on the Law Reform Commission's report on dishonesty, will greatly strengthen the hand of the Garda Síochána in dealing with fraud offences.
Mr. Cotter: I am very disappointed with the Minister's response. Deputy Seán Barrett tabled a question on 22 October 1991 and the Minister has, in effect, given the same response today as he did then. The Minister has received a report and he says that its recommendations will be implemented. When? Does he recognise that white collar fraud is endemic in our society, which is obvious to everybody? Does he recognise that the squad in their present form are  totally incapable of handling that situation? When will the Minister make some move to restore public confidence in this most crucial area? I want to ask the Minister——
Mr. Cotter: I understand that. What did the Minister mean when he said the Force would establish links with external professional bodies? Does this mean that a firm of accountants or some other professional firm will be on retainer and that——
An Ceann Comhairle: I appreciate that but so are all the questions on the Order Paper. I suggest that the three remaining Priority Questions are also very important and Deputies are awaiting replies. An t-Aire.
Mr. Burke: I do not understand the Deputy's disappointment because, as I have said, recommendations have been made and have been acted on. For  example, the Garda authorities recommended the appointment of additional Garda personnel to the fraud squad — that is under way — and the strengthening of the squad by the appointment of a full-time superintendent, two additional inspectors and four additional sergeants. They have already been assigned to the Force, bringing their strength to 45. The Garda also recommended the restructuring of the squad to allow for the establishment of special investigative teams to handle serious and complex cases; additional specialised training for members of the squad — which is under way; the establishment of computerised links with the Companies Office in the computerisation of Garda records of stolen cheques and credit cards, which is under way; the establishment of a panel of legal experts drawn from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which is under way; and the establishment of a panel of accountants from which the Garda could draw expertise in the investigation of complex issues, which also is under way. Every case is different and the Garda authorities would prefer to have a panel to which they could go for different specialities. All the recommendations have been taken on board. I initiated the report to strengthen the squad and this is under way.
Mr. Cotter: What steps do the Government intend taking to ensure that what happened in relation to, for example, investigations of alleged fraud at meat factories, as outlined recently at the tribunal, will never happen again?
Mr. Burke: The resources given to the squad and the changes being considered which will give us a structure along the lines of the British Serious Fraud Office will ensure maximum protection for the citizens of this country.
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