Nama 'pragmatic' over salaries

 

THE NATIONAL Asset Management Agency (Nama) had to make a “pragmatic business decision” when paying developers’ salaries, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the Dáil.

“The alternative is to get in experts on credit to run the business, and we have experience of those already with Nama assets gone into receivership,” he added.

“The receivers are a fine body of people but they charge €180 per hour.”

Mr Noonan said this amount annually was far higher than the cost of the developer, who knew the assets, running the system under strict controls.

The range of salaries, he said, was between €75,000 and €100,000, and there were two salaries above that, one between €100,000 and €200,000 and another of €200,000.

“They manage billions of euro worth of assets and run them in a very tight situation,” he added.

“A business plan must be agreed first and there is a great deal of negotiation whereby assets that are transferred out of the control of the company must be restored and so forth.”

The Minister told Independent TD Tom Fleming that many people would share his views and concerns about the salaries paid.

However, he said he was satisfied in general that what Nama was doing was appropriate, but it must be constantly under review.

“Where developers have broken the terms of their business plans, the arrangement has ceased and some of those companies have gone into receivership,” he added.

Mr Fleming said he believed the salaries were exorbitant, given the state of the country. The contracts were confidential and he believed nobody should have the right to enter into such arrangements.

“These people broke the country and are now being paid by the State and its taxpayers,” Mr Fleming added. “We do not want a repeat of the recklessness of the past decade and the past five or six years in particular.”

Mr Fleming said full details of the remuneration paid should be put on the Nama website.

Calling for more accountability, he said Nama should be answerable to the Minister who would vet such matters. “The people who are funding this, the general public, are entitled to know its status and the names and details involved,” he added.

“I ask the Minister to reconsider that.” Mr Noonan said he was advised that much of the information Mr Fleming wished the public to have was commercially sensitive.

“There is a prohibition under the National Asset Management Agency Act, which was sponsored by my predecessor and passed by the Oireachtas, which prevents this information being given,” he added.

Mr Noonan said he was advised by Nama that when it decided the better option for the taxpayer was to leave the debtor in charge of his or her business, it set a limit for the overheads in the company or business and that cap must cover all costs, including his or her own salary.

Nama, he said, took a large number of factors into account before approving the overhead allocation for any debtor to operate its business.