I wish to thank the Deputy for raising this important matter.
The House will be aware that the Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation.
The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for approximately 20,000 organisations in Ireland, registered with the Unit for this purpose, which employ personnel to work in a full-time, part time, voluntary or student capacity with children and / or vulnerable adults. Garda Vetting is conducted only on behalf of registered organisations and is not conducted for individual persons on a personal basis. When an organisation is registered with the Garda Central Vetting Unit it is entitled to receive Garda Vetting services in respect of its employees.
A vetting disclosure is made in response to a written request and with the permission of the person who is the subject of that request. Garda vetting disclosures are issued to specified organisations registered with GCVU for that purpose in respect of a particular post or employment. The Unit processed approximately 328,000 vetting applications on behalf of these organisations in 2012. New and forthcoming legislation will result in a significant increase in the workload of the GCVU.
The current average processing time for applications is approximately 12 to 14 weeks from date of receipt. However, seasonal fluctuations and the necessity to seek additional information on particular applications can result in this processing time being exceeded on occasion. All organisations registered for Garda Vetting are aware of the processing time-frames for the receipt of Garda vetting and have been advised to factor this into their recruitment and selection process. In order to observe equity and fairness in respect of all applicants for Garda Vetting, standard processing procedures are such that applications are processed in chronological order, from the date of receipt at the Central Vetting Unit.
Each time a new vetting application is received, a full vetting check is conducted to ensure that the most recent data available is taken into account. The non-transferability and contemporaneous nature of the certificate protects against the risk of fraud or forgery and is a guarantee of the integrity of the vetting service. It also affords the registered organisation the facility to assess suitability based on the most up to date information available on the applicant.
I remain in ongoing contact with the Garda Commissioner as to how best the service can continue to be delivered and improved upon, while at all times protecting the integrity of the process. Clearly, the protection of children and vulnerable adults is the primary objective of the Garda Central Vetting Unit and this must remain the case.
An e-vetting system is presently being developed and will be completed as quickly as possible. The Garda Commissioner has informed me that there are currently 1 Superintendent, 3 Sergeants and approximately 136 civilian personnel assigned to the Garda Central Vetting Unit.
This civilian complement includes 23 staff recently transferred from Department of Agriculture. In addition, a further 31 have been assigned to the Vetting Service from various other locations in the public service. These staff members are currently undergoing training with the first cohort due to have completed their training by 15 July and the last by mid-September.
When these staff members have been fully trained on the vetting process I expect there will be a positive effect on vetting times. The employment of temporary staff in the vetting unit previously resulted in the time taken to complete most vetting applications being reduced to between 3 and 4 weeks and it is my hope that we can again so reduce the waiting period. In this context, my Department is also examining the scope for the redeployment of additional personnel from within the public service to the Unit and is engaged in ongoing discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in this regard.
This is a very good example of the value of redeployment within the public service and the contribution it can make to the more effective use of resources.
I am further informed by the Garda Commissioner that sufficient accommodation and equipment has been provided to accommodate all of these additional personnel and to facilitate their work when they complete their Garda Vetting Training.