PAC seeks extra resources for Nama, IBRC inquiries

McGuinness says committee does not have requisite skills to deal with allegations

The Treasury Building in Dublin which houses Nama. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The Treasury Building in Dublin which houses Nama. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Wed, Dec 18, 2013, 11:46

The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is to request additional resources to assist its inquiries into alleged issues at Nama and its investigation into the IBRC.

John McGuinness said he wants to investigate allegations that former Nama officials gave confidential information to individuals who should not have received it.

For these inquiries to be successful Mr McGuinness said the committee would need financial and legal experts to allow the members to follow the trail of transactions.

“Neither the Comptroller & Auditor General or the PAC have the requisite skills to deal with issues like this and to be able to follow the trail. Those transactions are very complex.”

“So we are writing to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin asking for further resources,” he told The Irish Times.

Mr McGuinness said the committee would continue its investigations, regardless of whether the resources were provided, but cautioned that its effectiveness would be compromised without them.

He said the committee had no documentary evidence to support some of the allegations being made but there were people who were willing discuss this.

Hearings are likely to take place with NAMA and Department of Finance officials in the New Year.

Mr McGuinness said the committee was also planning to write to the secretary general of the Department of Finance to ask whether it had any information on the allegations relating to Nama.

Yesterday Taoiseach Enda Kenny said allegations about inappropriate behaviour at Nama are being taken “very seriously” and they are a matter of “concern and substance”.

He confirmed two separate Garda investigations were under way and said a complaint made by Nama against a former employee “is at a very advanced stage”.

Gardaí had received a separate complaint in August from a firm of solicitors relating to the alleged disclosure of information by Nama.

Nama has responsibility for €74 billion in loans and is the largest property management company in the world.

Mr Kenny said the Garda was awaiting receipt of further documentation from the solicitors concerned and “will fully investigate any allegations of criminal activity”.

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly had suggested an independent review of systems and procedures at Nama might be urgently necessary if the Taoiseach was not happy that they were as good as they could possibly be.

The Taoiseach said following the conclusion of the two Garda investigations, “if the Garda follow through on the second one”, it was clearly “an issue the Minister would be cognisant of, taking into account the constraints upon him as a citizen or public representative in terms of the law”.

Mr Donnelly warned it was possible the State could be exposed to “very significant costs if an aggrieved party sought and was awarded damages for potential wrong behaviour”.

He said the allegations, regardless of whether they were true or not, “compromise Nama’s ability while they are left untested and the agency cannot do the best job it can in returning as much money to the State as possible”.

He said a potential bidder for Nama assets may decide not to bid because they feel “other bidders have access to confidential information which they do not”.

Mr Donnelly said the allegations were not new and first surfaced in 2011. “Since 2011 and the initial allegations, what steps has the Government taken to ensure no leaking of confidential information from Nama can take place?” he asked.

He also asked if Mr Kenny was satisfied that the agency was now “watertight”.

Fianna Fail Senator Darragh O’Brien has said he will lodge documents regarding reports of improper behaviour by officials at NAMA with Gardai at lunchtime.

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