356. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the estimated cost of establishing a Garda fraud unit. [31306/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will be aware that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB, formerly known as the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation) has been established since 1995. The remit of the GNECB includes playing a pro-active role in the prevention and detection of fraud, and acting as a central repository for fraud related intelligence and therefore the GNECB effectively houses the Garda fraud unit.
In relation specifically to insurance fraud investigation, which has been discussed on a number of recent occasions in this House, I have previously outlined how the Garda Commissioner is of the view that a divisional focus on insurance fraud is preferable to the establishment of a centralised insurance fraud investigation unit.
The Deputy will no doubt be aware of Deputy Commissioner John Twomey's appearance in front of the Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach on 9th July. At the Committee, the Deputy Commissioner clearly set out the organisation's plans for fraud investigation:
"At meetings between Commissioner Harris and Minister D’Arcy, both parties were agreed that private funding of a specialist insurance fraud unit was not the preferred option...
Commissioner Harris has also informed the Minister that in line with the overall Garda strategy, GNECB will focus on major organised frauds including insurance cases and individual insurance frauds will be dealt with at divisional level. This is in line with the greater emphasis on divisional-led policing as outlined in the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. This divisional-led approach is currently being trialled as part of our four Divisional Policing Model pilots."
Deputy Commissioner Twomey went on to state:
"The Commissioner believes that it is important that there is sufficient expertise at divisional level to deal with individual frauds. Each division already has a number of Gardaí trained in fraud investigation and 50 more will be trained this year. The resource requirement for each Division will be different and will depend on the number of crimes reported and requiring investigation. Further resources – 6 Sergeants and 6 Gardaí - have also recently been provided to GNECB to assist in all areas of fraud investigation. It is anticipated that a competition for positions in GNECB will commence in the second half of this year.
In the meantime, An Garda Síochána continues to develop in-house expertise in investigating insurance-related fraud. All Detective Gardaí and Detective Sergeants receive fraud training. In addition, since 2016, 132 Gardaí have been trained in the investigation of fraud and e-crime investigation at University College Dublin."
I trust this information provides a clear picture of the An Garda Síochána's plans to tackle insurance fraud across the State.