To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will give an update on the progress made in reducing the waiting time for Garda vetting in view of the fact that 23 staff have been deployed from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and another 31 staff from other sections of the public sector and these staff completed their training on 15th July 2013 and are now available to tackle the unacceptably high delays of up to 14 weeks.

Senator Denis Landy

Speech by Minister John Perry TD on behalf of Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter TD

On behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence who is unavoidably detained elsewhere, I wish to thank the Senator for raising this important matter.

The Garda Central Vetting Unit provides employment vetting for approximately 20,000 organisations in Ireland, registered with the Unit for this purpose. These organisations 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 only 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.  This workload is likely to increase significantly into the future.
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. The primary objective of the Garda Central Vetting Unit is the protection of children and vulnerable adults and this must remain the case.

The House will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for Vetting Service and for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation. The Minister remains in ongoing contact with the 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. As the Senator has highlighted, the Minister has received sanction from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for the redeployment of additional staff to the vetting offices in Ennis, Tipperary and Thurles. The Garda Commissioner has informed me the Minister that there are now 1 Superintendent, 3 Sergeants and approximately 127 whole time equivalent civilian personnel assigned to the Garda Central Vetting Unit.  It is important to note that while the number of people employed in the vetting service is in excess of this, the standard metric for counting staff is in terms of whole time equivalents.

The staff in Ennis have been fully operational since the end of last year. The other additional staff members have been undergoing training, with the first due to have completed their training on 15 July, and the last due to complete their training by mid-September. When these staff members have been fully trained on the vetting process the Minister expects there will be a positive effect on vetting times. 

The Department is also examining the scope for the further 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.

The Minister has been 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.

In conclusion I would like, on behalf of the Minister, to thank the Senator once again for raising this matter and I can assure him and the House that it is a matter of utmost importance to the Minister. I will pass on to the Minister the issues and points that have been raised here and he has confirmed that he will convey them to the Commissioner.