RTÉ investigate €1.8 million Limerick Council transactions

FURTHER details of a Garda investigation into €1.8 million worth of transactions involving Limerick City and County Council, Irish Water and another company, following the dismissal of a Council employee, were broadcast by RTÉ television on Wednesday night.

The story, which was originally broken by the Limerick Post in October 2020, reported how Gardaí had begun a criminal investigation into whistleblower claims of financial fraud following an internal probe by Limerick City and County Council.

The claims were initially made in a protected disclosure through a solicitor that substantial local authority money was fraudulently used by at least one individual, and Limerick City and County Council were examining whether others benefitted in kind, or if anyone else was aware of the alleged fraud.

After the story was first reported, the Council Executive emailed elected members and officials confirming that it had “referred (the issue) to the gardaí” and that “a staff member has been dismissed” following a nine-month internal council investigation.

The email also stated that the Chair of the Audit Committee as well as the Local Government Auditor were kept fully briefed on the progress of the investigation, which included an audit of the council’s accounts stretching back several years.

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The follow-up probe into Limerick City and County Council by the RTÉ Investigates team was part of a wider programme on how local authorities function and go about their business.

In an online report ahead of the broadcast, RTÉ stated: “Limerick City Council – which amalgamated with Limerick County Council in 2014 – provides another example of a council official caught stealing, but avoided a court prosecution. But, in this case, the reason the official was spared a prosecution is clear.

“According to the 2008 Local Government Audit of the council, the official was dismissed over the ‘misappropriation’ of council monies, which he had admitted to. It added that, while consultation did take place with Gardaí, because the official had agreed to make “reparations… the Garda course of action was not pursued.”

It added: “At Limerick and City and County Council, councillors were told in 2020 that an employee was dismissed following a ‘detailed investigation’ that had taken place over the previous nine months. It said that it had referred the matter to the Gardaí. RTÉ Investigates understands that the investigation relates to payments the employee approved to a company.”

In a statement issued to the Limerick Post on Wednesday evening, a council spokesman said: “Limerick City and County Council had referred this incident to the Gardaí following its own internal investigation and is co-operating fully with the investigation currently being undertaken by An Garda Síochána. The Council will not be commenting further.”