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Investigation into €10,000 spend on fillet steaks and luxury chocolates ‘for prison cookery classes’

The Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy scrutinised invoices for food purchased by prison authorities in 2018 and 2019.

AN INVESTIGATION HAS been launched after it was discovered that almost €10,000 had been spent on cooking fillet steaks, legs of lamb, rib roasts and prosciutto in an Irish prison.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) Seamus McCarthy scrutinised invoices for food purchased by prison authorities for use in cooking classes for inmates.

In his latest report on the Account of the Public Service, McCarthy found it is not Prison Service policy to serve “high value” food in prison kitchens of classrooms.

“However, there was evidence of a difference in the type of food purchased in one prison,” he said.

“In that case, the products purchased included a quantity of luxury items eg fillet steaks, rib roasts, boneless leg of lamb, prosciutto and expensive catering chocolate.

“The Governor of the prison concerned has begun an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the expenditure”, McCarthy stated.

The Prison Service told the C&AG that the bill for the luxury foods came to €9,302 during 2018 and last year.

The food was purchased “to support the provision of cookery classes to prisoners”, McCarthy was told.

“However, it has not been possible from the work-training activity returns to Prison Service headquarters to be definitive on what activity was taking place or if there were official events catered for using some of the products listed,” said McCarthy.

Prison Tuck Shops
The report also found that prisoners made more than €1 million profits through tuck shops last year.

Each prison operates a shop facilitating the purchase of a range of items including confectionary, cigarettes, soft drinks and toiletries, according to the report.

McCarthy found that some spending from the tuck shop profits “was not in accordance” Prison Service procedures.

“This included some payments for the benefit of staff and payments related to the operation of the prison,” he said.

Over several months in 2018, two prisons converted funds into cash totalling €23,000 which was then kept in a “governors’ cash box” which was “used as directed by the respective governors”.

“In both prisons, record keeping was insufficiently detailed to demonstrate that the cash was used in all cases for purposes appropriate” to the prisoner welfare fund, the C&AG found.

By Conal Thomas