Sunday 30 April 2017

Noonan reveals deterioration of relationship with IBRC

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said the €45m sale of a company by the former Anglo Irish Bank gave the 'best possible result for the taxpayer'
Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said the €45m sale of a company by the former Anglo Irish Bank gave the 'best possible result for the taxpayer'
John Downing

John Downing

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said the €45m sale of a company by the former Anglo Irish Bank gave the "best possible result for the taxpayer".

Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the spending watchdog, the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG), will examine the controversy.

Enda Kenny was under pressure from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin during heated Dáil exchanges on the 2012 deal done by the IBRC bank, which replaced the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society.

Both opposition leaders, Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams, called for an independent inquiry, citing documents received by Independent Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy, under the Freedom of Information Act.

These showed senior Finance Department officials had serious concerns about aspects of the sale by IBRC of the company, Siteserv, which is involved in the contract for the installation of water meters.

Siteserv was sold to the Denis O'Brien-owned firm Millington in a deal which the opposition says resulted in a €105m loss to the taxpayer.

But, while staunchly defending the deal, Mr Noonan also spoke for the first time about tensions between his department and the IBRC.

Both Mr Martin and Mr Adams also said €5m was paid to Siteserv shareholders to secure the deal, despite the company being "bust".

The Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin leaders also said advisers involved in the sale were advising both sides of the transaction.

Outside the Dáil, Mr Noonan said he had changed the structures at IBRC to ensure the Finance Department was told about big transactions.

He said he had concerns in 2012 about the Siteserv deal but was assured by the chairman, Alan Dukes, that the board of IBRC had reviewed the process and that it was in the taxpayers' best interests.

"When the inquiries were made, I was satisfied that the action I took was sufficient," Mr Noonan said.

The minister went on RTÉ's 'Six One' news to defend the decisions made.

In a statement today, Alan Dukes said: "I categorically reject suggestions that there was any impropriety in the sale of Siteserv by IBRC in March 2012.

"All aspects of the sale were considered in detail by the board of the bank and the decision made was considered to be the best course of action available, in the interests of the shareholder and of the State.

"The Department of Finance was kept informed throughout the process. Some time later, the Department of Finance raised questions about the sale, apparently on foot of public comments by a company which had made a non-compliant bid.

"These questions were examined in detail during discussions between departmental officials and senior management of the bank. They were again discussed at a meeting between the Minister for Finance and representatives of the board at a meeting in July.

"During that discussion, the board representatives informed the Minister that the matter had been referred to the Central Bank, which had no comments to make.

"At the conclusion of that discussion, the Minister professed himself satisfied with the bank's reasoning and decisions."

The Taoiseach also pledged a value for money assessment by the C&AG. "Anglo Irish Bank was the rotten carcass that brought this country down and cost the taxpayer €34bn," Mr Kenny told the Fianna Fáil leader.

Mr Kenny said the Fianna Fáil-led Government had put in the structures which gave freedom to IBRC, which succeeded Anglo, to make commercial decisions free from government interference.

The Taoiseach said the Finance Minister had put in a safety measure which allowed a senior Finance Department official to monitor big IBRC transactions.

Mr Kenny said more information would be released under Freedom of Information.

He said Mr Noonan later met with both the chief executive and board chairman of IBRC.

The Comptroller & Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy, told the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this morning that he did not have the powers to investigate the Siteserv deal.

Committee members Mary Lou McDonald and Joe Costello spoke in favour of the Government introducing legislation to allow the C&AG and the PAC to examine the Siteserv deal and others undertaken by IBRC.

The committee resolved to wait for further clarification on the Government's intentions before discussing the issue again.

Irish Independent

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