Department of Finance rejects request from PAC for data on banking crisis
Department chief reluctant to accede to request due to looming inquiry
Head of the Department of Finance John Moran: ‘I would not like to prejudice the role of a future inquiry by releasing further records’
The development comes amid expectation in political circles that the committee, which has long sought stewardship of the parliamentary inquiry into the debacle, will be frozen out of the investigation when it begins in the autumn.
While there is disagreement in Cabinet as to who exactly should conduct the inquiry, the Government is very reluctant to hand the task to the PAC. The committee is chaired by Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, who was a minister of state in the last government.
Under newly enacted legislation it falls to the Dáil and Seanad to establish the inquiry, but the Government has control over the process thanks to its large parliamentary majority.
Preparations for the official inquiry are now eclipsing the PAC’s examination of the affair. “I would not like to prejudice the role of a future inquiry by releasing further records to a body other than the inquiry,” chief of the Department of Finance John Moran informed the committee in a letter.
Key documents withheld
The department gave 39 documents on the crisis to the PAC three years ago and partially released a further 15 records but withheld 55 “key” documents on legal grounds.
Last April, however, Mr Moran told the committee that the department was reviewing whether to remove redactions from the 15 partially released documents and whether to release the other 55. He warned at that time it would not be possible to release legally privileged documents.
Mr Moran’s letter to the PAC, sent on July 26th, indicates the review process has now been superseded by the move to set up a formal inquiry. “I trust the Public Accounts Committee understands my position,” he noted in the letter.
“In anticipation of an inquiry early in the next Dáil term, I have asked the department’s new chief financial officer, Greg Dempsey, to assemble a team who will collate relevant material that may be requested.
“My department, therefore, will be in a position to comply fully with any requests made by such an inquiry.”
Attention has centred thus far on 55 “key” documents, which include correspondence on contingency planning in the months before the September 2008 banking guarantee.
But the department collated no less than 9,000 records for Finnish banking expert Peter Nyberg when he conducted a private hearing into the affair in 2010 and 2011.
The Nyberg commission examined 200,000 records from public authorities, banks and other sources.
The Cabinet is split on whether the inquiry should be carried out by an ad hoc Oireachtas committee or the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform.
Although Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin favours a new committee, many of his Government colleagues believe the task should go to the finance committee.