PAC says Dáil debate needed on projected €3bn Nama surplus

Report also criticises delays to National Broadband Plan

PAC  has called for a Dáil debate on how  the surplus on the wind-up of Nama should be spent. Photograph:  Alan Betson

PAC has called for a Dáil debate on how the surplus on the wind-up of Nama should be spent. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called for a Dáil debate on how a projected €3 billion surplus on the wind-up of Nama should be spent.

PAC, chaired by Sean Fleming TD, said in a periodic report on matters arising from its meetings late last year that there should also be a Dáil debate on whether the State-owned bad bank, set up in 2009 to take over Irish lenders’ toxic commercial property loans, could be used for other purposes after its current work is done.

Mr Fleming had previously said that the Government needed to set out what options it had for the surplus cash expected from Nama when it is scheduled to wind up in 2020.

He said last August these included reducing the national debt, making a contribution to the State’s planned rainy day fund, housing and other infrastructure projects or a combination of these.

Meanwhile, the PAC report said that the committee was of the opinion that the Department of Finance’s oversight of the special liquidation process of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) was “inadequate”. IBRC, former Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, was put into liquidation in 2013.

“The committee notes that the legislation for the special liquidators does not provide for a committee of inspection. It is the committee’s view that, considering the cost involved in the special liquidation process, a committee of inspection would provide increased public oversight.”

Legal case

PAC said that further examination of the liquidation “may be required” once a legal case was concluded.

Debt campaigner David Hall initiated an action against the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, in December for allegedly failing to have proper oversight over €222.5 million of fees tied to IBRC’s liquidation up to February last year.

The committee’s report also criticised as “unacceptable” ongoing delays to the Government’s National Broadband Plan.

The project, which is due to bring high-speed broadband to more than 500,000 homes and businesses in rural Ireland, has been beset by delays and controversies regarding the procurement process, which only has one firm left in it.

PAC recommends that in order to reduce project risks and the possibility of budgetary overspend, the Department of Communications “produce a clear and published timetable and costings for the implementation” of the scheme by June.

Carbon emissions

The committee also recommends the department carry out a costed review of Ireland’s potential liability for not meeting its 2020 carbon emissions targets. The fines hanging over Ireland for missing its EU climate targets are expected to be in region of €450-€500 million.

The report further suggested that inadequate effort has been made by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to recover debt from redundancy and employers’ insolvency schemes. As a result it recommended that a detailed plan be put in place and closer co-operation between the department and the Revenue Commissioners to tackle the issue of outstanding debt.