Public Expenditure: costs relating to protected disclosure

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Justice and Defence, Oral Questions, Public Expenditure

To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the nature of the discussions that took place between his Department and the Department of Justice and Equality that led to the establishment of a panel of barristers to assess the protected disclosures of current and former members of An Garda Síochána.

REPLY

Last year, the Department of Justice and Equality sought sanction from my Department for payment of a proposed fee structure to legal Counsel as part of a new independent panel for reviewing allegations of Garda misconduct. The correspondence from that Department noted that the Minister for Justice and Equality had decided to set up this panel to consider allegations made to the Minister for Justice and Equality under the provisions of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.

The stated rationale for the new panel was to provide independent advice to the Department of Justice and Equality regarding how each case should be treated and to make recommendations about possible options based on the documentation provided. According to the request for sanction, the Minister for Justice and Equality was of the view that the panel would help foster confidence in An Garda Síochána that allegations would be treated in a proper and unbiased manner because of its independent nature. The correspondence also referred to the additional benefit of the practical legal expertise of the panel members which not be available in the Department of Justice and Equality.

Overall, I gather that the motivation of the Minister for Justice and Equality was to ensure that disclosures can be dealt with in a proper, fair, professional and independent manner.

There were no other discussions with the Department of Justice and Equality on the policy matter of setting up the panel, especially given that the Minister for Justice and Equality had already consulted with the Attorney General’s Office regarding the setting up of this panel structure. Rather, my Department considered the merits of the fee structure for the panel and engaged with the Department of Justice and Equality on this issue.  Ultimately, my Department provided sanction for the proposed fee structure on condition that this would represent value for money.

QUESTION:

To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the resources put in place to support the work of a panel of barristers to assess protected disclosures by members or former members of An Garda Síochána.

REPLY

The request for sanction from the Department of Justice and Equality on this matter estimated total expenditure of €22,000 on fees for the independent panel. This is based on a payment structure which sets a fee per case depending on the level of complexity and takes into account the current level of protected disclosures on hand. The fees range from €300 to €1,000 per case. However, the maximum amount payable to counsel is €1,000 per case.

Overall, the Department of Justice and Equality estimates that  maximum annual costs would fall to €5,000 – €6,000 in future years. It is a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality to fund panel fees as well as any other administrative supports within existing resources.

Finally, as regards the establishment of the independent panel, I gather the motivation of the Minister for Justice and Equality was to ensure disclosures can be dealt with in a proper, fair, professional and independent manner.