The commission of investigation into the former Anglo Irish Bank established six years ago has cost almost €10 million to date, half of which has been spent on legal fees, the Dáil has heard.
Final costs are now expected to exceed €30 million, with reports that it could be more than double that, at €70 million.
From its inception in June 2015 until the end of last month, the investigation into Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo, cost €9,867,000, of which approximately €4.9 million went towards legal charges.
Solidarity TD Mick Barry told the Dáil the commission spent €4,000 on bringing a banking expert from Thailand and paid out more than €1,500 on tissues. "I find it hard to get my head around that," he said.
“We are investigating the activities of a golden circle and it seems the investigation itself is just serving to contrast the lives of the investigators and the legal people with the ordinary taxpayer, who has been fleeced.”
The commission is investigating 38 transactions at the bank where the loss was €10 million or more but has been working on the one transaction since it began.
This module focused on the sale of building services company Siteserv, now called Actavo, to an Isle of Man company called Millington controlled by businessman Denis O’Brien for €45 million in 2012. The company had a loan of €119 million to IBRC written off in the deal.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil the almost €10 million cost so far does not, however, include third-party legal costs, which have yet to be determined by the commission.
Last month Mr Martin granted the commission an extension until the end of October to issue its report, 75 per cent of which is written, he said.
While final costs were last year estimated in the commission’s seventh interim report to be between €12 million and €14.4 million in the expectation it would finish at the end of last year, the estimate did not include costs or delays linked to possible judicial review hearings.
Labour leader Alan Kelly said the Currency publication reported that three-quarters of the report – 900 pages – was completed and estimated costs to date at €70 million.
He said that on this basis the costs amount to “just under €80,000 per page” and if this is the case “it will cost more than what was received by the IBRC”, when the initial estimate was €4 million.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the costs were “shaping up to be astronomical” and the commission was “starting to look and feel very much like a tribunal”. She said there is an “absolute necessity” to investigate these matters but “we do not have a mechanism that is effective, cost-effective and efficient”.
The Taoiseach said he shared TDs’ concerns and they had to collectively work out the best models of investigation, but he said existing regulatory authorities should be dealing with issues “that require examination, oversight and investigation” to avoid the types of large investigations sought in the Dáil.
Separately, the National Assets Management Agency (Nama) commission established in 2017 to look at the sale of the agency’s Northern Ireland portfolio known as Project Eagle has spent €3.2 million to date, which excludes any third-party legal costs. It is expected to report at the end of September.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the need for more cost-effective inquiries should not prevent necessary investigations and he called for an inquiry into the death of George Nkencho who was shot dead by a garda. A Garda Ombudsman investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
He also said the family of Terence Wheelock, who died in Garda custody in 2005, “have been fighting for justice as regards how he died”.