Min­is­ter praises ODCE as she gives it an ex­tra €1m

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS NEWS - MARK PAUL

The Gov­ern­ment is to al­lo­cate an ex­tra €1 mil­lion to the white col­lar crime watch­dog, the Of­fice of the Direc­tor of Cor­po­rate En­force­ment (ODCE), to pay for spe­cial­ist in­ves­tiga­tive staff such as foren­sic ac­coun­tants.

Min­is­ter for Busi­ness Heather Humphreys said the agency’s bud­get was be­ing ex­panded, ahead of its con­ver­sion to a stand­alone statu­tory agency.

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar has pre­vi­ously said he wants to con­vert the ODCE into “the Ir­ish FBI for white col­lar crime”.

The cor­po­rate watch­dog – which is lead­ing a ma­jor in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of il­le­gal­ity at In­de­pen­dent News & Me­dia – re­mains part of Ms Humphreys’ depart­ment.

She said leg­is­la­tion is in train to put it on a lone foot­ing.

Statu­tory foot­ing

She said she did know when the leg­is­la­tion to put it on a statu­tory foot­ing would be ready.

When asked if its le­gal au­thor­ity to con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tions may also be beefed up, as well as its re­sources, she replied: “We are look­ing at that.”

Op­po­si­tion politi­cians, in­clud­ing Labour leader Bren­dan Howlin, have pre­vi­ously com­plained that se­nior in­ves­tiga­tive po­si­tions at the ODCE have re­mained un­ful­filled.

And that this is the case even while the of­fice’s abil­ity to con­duct ma­jor in­ves­ti­ga­tions has been stretched.

The ODCE has about 40 staff.

And last year it re­ceived an al­lo­ca­tion of €5 mil­lion from Ms Humphreys’ depart­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to its an­nual re­port, how­ever, about €2 mil­lion of that al­lo­ca­tion was un­spent, sim­i­lar to pre­vi­ous years.

The cor­po­rate watch­dog said it did not spend its full al­lo­ca­tion in 2017 be­cause of de­lays re­cruit­ing spe­cial­ist staff and lower than ex­pected le­gal bills.

If and when it is con­verted into a lone agency on a statu­tory foot­ing, how­ever, it will gain more ex­ten­sive con­trol over its fi­nances.

Heather Humphreys: said leg­is­la­tion is in train to put ODCE on a lone foot­ing

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