Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster has welcomed confirmation from the Minister for Justice that she would commission an independent review into matters raised about the Irish Prison Service during a recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.
In December, the Committee considered a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General that raised concerns regarding financial management of prisoners’ money and prison funds.
Teachta Munster said:
“The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report made clear that there is inadequate record-keeping across various sections of the Irish prison service.
“Some at the meeting advocated that the minor improvements made by the prison service regarding accounting practices sufficed as indicator that progress was being made. I utterly refute that.
“The fact of the matter is that the various members of the Committee were able to point to different individual whistleblowers who had raised concerns across various aspects of the service.
“That is why I felt the need to press the Committee to vote on recommending an external review on the day.
“It is simply not acceptable for a state agency to point to having fewer financial irregularities year-on-year – there should be none, and they should be able to appropriately account for funds.
“It further seems that the only people who ever paid a price as a result of protected disclosures made about the Irish Prison Service were the whistleblowers themselves.
“This review will be just one aspect of how the Public Accounts Committee follows up on our hearing with the Irish Prison Service.
“At a public meeting last week, I further requested that the Committee invite one of those whistleblowers who initially made a protected disclosure to the PAC to appear before the Committee once more.
“This state has a history of failing whistleblowers, but it seems the Department of Justice has a particularly sorry history.
“This review could serve to restore faith that the Department of Justice is capable of investigating itself – it should be broad enough in scope, but also brought to a conclusion in an appropriately timely manner.
“Too often investigations that should be measured in weeks and months stretch out for years, or face deferred publication.
“I will be asking the Committee to write to the Minister to further outline her intended timelines for this review.”