Coalition urged to widen scope of IBRC inquiry

FF and Sinn Féin urge Government to examine corporate governance issues

 

The Opposition is to request that the Commission of Investigation into the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) produce findings by October because of concerns about a possible early general election.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is to consult Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Independents over the scope of the investigation into IBRC, formed after the merger of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society.

Mr Noonan has said the commission should issue a report by the end of December. This has caused concern because of speculation over a possible autumn election. The final possible date for the election is next spring.

The Opposition parties are to meet Mr Noonan on Monday, and Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are expected to request that a report, or an interim report, be published in October.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams described the existing timeframe as “unacceptable” because the Dáil will not be sitting in the period when the final report is due to issue.

“There is also understandable concern that there may be an election called between now and December 31st,” Mr Adams said.

Commission of investigation

On Wednesday Mr Noonan announed that a commission of investigation was being set up to upgrade the existing inquiry into IBRC’s sale of Siteserv to a company controlled by Denis O’Brien.

As well as IBRC transactions that resulted in a loss of at least €10 million, the commission’s terms of reference include any cases where significant interest rate deals were done with IBRC borrowers on preferential terms.

The terms for the new commission already include issues raised by Independent TD Catherine Murphy in the Dáil last week.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin yesterday called for the commission to examine corporate governance issues and conflicts of interest as well as the bank’s relationship with the Department of Finance and its loan practices.

Minutes of IBRC board meetings from the time of the Siteserv sale in March 2012 released by the Department of Finance show the total amount written off by the State following the sale of Siteserv was €119 million, some €9 million more than previously estimated.

Significant tensions

Fresh correspondence released to The Irish Times under freedom-of-information legislation underline significant tensions between the department and IBRC at the time as well as fundamental disagreements over the management of the bank.

In his first public response to the controversy, Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted yesterday there was “no evidence of wrongdoing” while saying the commission was the right thing to do.

Another issue raised related to the role of Richard Wodehouse, IBRC’s then head of asset management in the sale of Siteserv. Mr Wodehouse was responsible for the bank’s dealings with Mr O’Brien.

Both IBRC chairman Alan Dukes and chief executive Mike Aynsley said he was excluded from the Siteserv decision-making process. However, the minutes of the board meeting show he was present.