123. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if An Garda Síochána has adequate access to modern communications technology; the degree to which such technology is readily available on a daily basis to all branches of the force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42723/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for a Partnership Government recognises that Gardaí must have the modern technology and resources necessary to detect and investigate crimes, and to prevent loss and harm to citizens and their property on a 24/7 basis.
ICT is recognised as an essential tool for supporting the day-to-day operations of over 16,000 Garda staff, including Gardaí, civilian staff and reserves. I am informed by the Garda authorities that on an annual basis, approximately 13.5 million vehicle registrations are read by the Automated Number Plate Recognition System, 1.9 million records are exchanged electronically with the Court Services, 9.3 million PULSE searches are conducted, 19.5 million TETRA secure digital radio calls are made and 118,000 fingerprints are searched.
In terms of investment in Garda ICT, I can confirm to the Deputy that in support of Garda ICT needs and to enable delivery of reform, some €342 million is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021. Of that total, funding of around €65 million for ICT is provided for in Budget 2019.
The overall Garda budget in 2019 will be €1.76 billion. It is important to note that decisions in relation to the allocation and management of Garda equipment and resources, including ICT, are a matter for the Garda Commissioner.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that a range of ICT equipment is generally available, as required, to operational members on a day to day basis in the terms queried by the Deputy, including desktop PCs and associated IT devices as well as TETRA digital radios. Official laptops and mobile phones may be issued to senior managers and a proportion of operational members depending on business need. Automated Number Plate Recognition technology is available in a number of Garda vehicles. ICT technology is also deployed in air support units and mobile command vehicles providing on site connectivity to Garda ICT systems and communications.
There are 565 operational Garda stations in the State, of which I am informed 489 are currently connected to the Garda network. Options are being explored to provide members attached to the remaining 76 stations not yet networked with local access to Garda ICT services. This includes an assessment of the availability or otherwise of local broadband services and/or the provision of mobile technology. It is important to note that any member attached to a currently unconnected Garda station can access PULSE at their local district station. Members attached to non-networked locations can also contact the Garda Information Services Centre (GISC) or an associated networked station if required.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that a broad range of ICT projects are being progressed to support existing systems and develop them further, with the overall goal of supporting the ongoing business requirements of An Garda Síochána in all fields. I am further informed that a number of key ICT projects will be moving to implementation phase during 2019, including projects such as:
- the Rosters and Duty Management System, which will give supervisors better and faster information on the resources available to them;
- phased implementation of the Mobility project, which aims to provide secure mobile access to Garda systems; and
- roll-out on a pilot basis of the Investigations Management System, which will standardise, digitise and support the management of all investigations arising from a PULSE incident.
Finally and as the Deputy will be aware, the Commission on the Future of Policing published its report on 18 September of this year. The report contains a wide range of recommendations which comprehensively address all the themes set out in the Commission's terms of reference. As the Deputy will be aware, the need for digital innovation and information was highlighted by the Commission. This is a major report on one of the key functions of the State and it is now receiving appropriate consideration. My Department is undertaking a detailed consultation process with the new Commissioner and other agencies as well as with other Government departments which are potentially impacted by the report's recommendations. I will return to Government to discuss my substantive response as well as a High-level Implementation Plan and proposed project structure before the end of the year.