Business Irish

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Finance officials are barred from correcting PAC on IBRC minutes

John Deasy
John Deasy

Daniel McConnell and Niall O'Connor

Senior officials from the Department of Finance were precluded on legal grounds from appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to correct "misleading" information they gave in a previous hearing.

The officials were due to appear in relation to the controversial sale of Siteserv and the department's relationship with the IBRC.

Last month, the officials provided the committee with incorrect information when they said the department did not have IBRC board minutes from March 2015 relating to the sale of Siteserv.

It subsequently turned out the department did have the minutes and following Finance Minister Michael Noonan's correction of the Dáil record, the officials wanted to come in and correct the record before the PAC.

However, legal advice given to the committee in private session, said the officials could not come in - as there was a danger of contaminating the newly established Commission of Investigation into the IBRC controversy.

After two hours of deliberations with their legal advisors, PAC members agreed not to bring the officials because the Commission of Inquiry has now been established.

It is understood Department Secretary General Derek Moran had intended to tell the committee that he and his officials "unreservedly apologise" for "inadvertently providing it with incorrect information".

While the private meeting went on, the finance officials were left waiting outside until they were told of the decision.

The Irish Independent has obtained a copy of Mr Moran's intended opening statement to the committee, in which he said the oversight did not change the substance of what the department officials told the committee previously, that they only heard of the Siteserv deal after it was completed.

"Our evidence was given in good faith based on information given to us at the time. I and my colleagues unreservedly apologise for inadvertently providing it with incorrect information. I hope the committee will accept our sincere apologies," Mr Moran's statement said.

Some committee members accepted the decision not to call the officials in before them.

Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said it was "appropriate" that such a decision was taken because "other events had taken over", referring to the IBRC inquiry.

Others were less happy, including chairman John McGuinness, who said there is now a very real danger of the work of committees being shut down because of the wide-ranging terms of the inquiry.

Labour Party TD Joe Costello said he was "very disappointed" by the decision. "It is very disappointing that we are not entitled to hear a correction of the record from the Secretary General," he said.

PAC vice-chairman John Deasy was critical of the actions of some TDs who he said are attempting to exploit the controversy for their publicity ends.

He said: "There are a lot of wannabe Catherine Murphys in the Dáil right now, trying to squeeze the last drops of publicity for themselves out of Denis O'Brien and Siteserv."

Irish Independent

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