Senior Nama official criticises C&AG report into Project Eagle

Audit committee chair says wording in draft changed, without Nama getting to respond

Senior Nama representatives will appear before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday to answer questions on the C&AG’s report into Project Eagle. Photograph: The Irish Times

Senior Nama representatives will appear before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday to answer questions on the C&AG’s report into Project Eagle. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

National Asset Management Agency’s audit committee chairman has criticised the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (C&AG) report into the sale of property in Northern Ireland, known as Project Eagle.

The report concluded that Nama’s sale by of its Northern Ireland portfolio involved a loss to the taxpayer of €220 million.

The Government has decided that additional investigation in Project Eagle is required. The deal is also subject to a number of investigations in Northern Ireland, including by Britain’s National Crime Agency.

Senior Nama representatives will appear before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday to answer questions on the C&AG’s report.

The 170-page report by the office of the C&AG Séamus McCarthy is is highly critical of the manner in which Nama disposed of 800 properties to US firm Cerberus for €1.6 billion in a deal known as Project Eagle.

Nama’s audit committee chairman Brian McEnery said draft reports he had received from the C&AG referred to “potential losses” but in the final report that wording had been changed to “probable losses”.

He said Nama was not given an opportunity to respond to these changes.

The failure of the C&AG to enlist external expertise for its analysis of Project Eagle was also criticised by Mr McEnery on RTÉ’s Marian Finucane programme on Radio One.

Mr McEnery said it was in the “commercial interests of the taxpayer” for Nama to keep certain aspects of its activities confidential.

He said if more detailed information had been released then “we would not get the same kind of yield on behalf of the taxpayer”.

“It isn’t as if everything has been perfect in Nama. There have been one or two leaks of information and when that happened we came in for a mighty amount of criticism,” Mr McEnery said.

He also criticised the C&AG for not getting outside experts involved in its assessment.

Mr McEnery said Nana was on target to return a profit to the State of approximately €2.5 billion. The agency is also involved in the development of 20,000 housing units in the Dublin docklands.

Separately, Sinn Féin deputy leader and Public Accounts Committee member Mary Lou McDonald said Minister for Finance Michael Noonan should come before the committee to answer questions about the sale.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald this afternoon said that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan needs to present himself before the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions about Project Eagle.

She told RTE’s The Week in Politics that if Mr Noonan decided not to appear before the PAC his position would become untenable.

On the same programme Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar Ministers are held accountable in the Dail and they should not go before the PAC.