“It would be a question of the utmost public concern if an undercover officer were effectively permitted to operate without justification, authorisation or oversight in Ireland.”
An official audit has criticised Mayo county council’s management of an €8.5m fund provided by Shell for the benefit of the local community near the Corrib gas pipeline.
The council allocated €451,000 of the fund to itself, with allocations made by “evaluation boards that were either entirely made up of staff from Mayo county council, or the majority of members on the evaluation board were from Mayo county council”, the local government auditor said.
He called on the council to “consider whether this represents best practice”.
The auditor also found that formal written procedures setting out the allocation process were finalised only in July 2014 and there was no external member on the evaluation committee before that date. Nevertheless, “significant monies were paid from the fund in 2015 pertaining to the allocations process pre-July 2014”.
The council declined to comment but provided a list of projects allocated funding. These include water infrastructure, such as a €140,000 “group water scheme water mains extension to Cornboy” and €150,000 for a group water scheme for Gortnacragher, Muingnabo and Barhauve.
Maura Harrington, the spokeswoman for Shell to Sea, which campaigned against the pipeline, wrote to the local government auditor last year to advise him to examine the council’s administration of the fund.
The fund was a condition of An Bord Pleanala’s 2011 decision to grant permission to Shell for the controversial pipeline. Shell said it had paid over the €8.5m in trust to the council and had “no role in the management or administration of the fund”.
Grants the council explicitly listed as being for its own activities included €25,000 for “filming in Mayo” and €80,000 for Tir Saile, a sculpture trail.
The council’s chief executive said that the council would implement the auditor’s recommendation that all allocations made from the fund be reviewed to ensure that they complied with written procedures.