Monday 5 December 2016

Public spending watchdog to probe IBRC bank controversy

John Downing Political Correspondent

Published 22/04/2015 | 13:35

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

THE Taoiseach has said the spending watchdog, the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG), will examine the controversy surrounding the €45m deal done by the former Anglo Irish Bank.

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Mr Kenny was under pressure from Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein during heated Dail exchanges on the 2012 deal done by IBRC bank, which replaced the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank.

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

These showed that senior officials at the Finance Department had serious concerns about aspects of the sale by IBRC of the company, Siterserv, which won 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 say resulted in a €105m loss to the taxpayer. 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 Fail and Sinn Fein leaders also alleged that advisers involved in the sale process were engaged in advising both sides of the transaction.

During increasingly heated exchanges in the Dail chamber, the Taoiseach hit back at his opponents. He also pledged a value for money assessment by the Comptroller & Auditor General who he said upheld the taxpayers’ interests in all these matters.

“Anglo Irish Bank was the rotten carcass that brought this country down and cost the taxpayer €34bn,” the Taoiseach told the Fianna Fail leader.

Mr Kenny said that the Fianna Fail-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 Michael Noonan had put in a safety measure which allowed a senior Finance Department official monitor big IBRC transactions.

He said Mr Noonan later met with both the chief executive and board chairman of IBRC about the Siteserv sale and was satisfied the transaction was correctly handled.

Meanwhile, the Finance Minister said he 'trusted' assurances from former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Alan Dukes that the controversial Siteserv sale was the best possible deal for the taxpayer.

Mr Noonan said he asked IBRC (formerly Anglo) to carry out a review of the €45m sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien owned Millington – a deal which Opposition politicians say cost the State €105m.

Speaking to RTE Six One News, the minister said at the time there was “no legal possibility” of reversing the sale.

“The board assured him (Alan Dukes) and he assured me that what happened was in the best interest of the State, and consequently of the taxpayer,” Minister Noonan said.

“You could review something if there was a possibility of changing something but all transactions were complete. There was no legal possibility of a reversal and I trusted Alan Dukes,” he added.

He said he had a meeting with IBRC chief executive Mike Ansley and Mr Dukes at which he received an assurance that “everything was done properly”.

The minister said if he had not accepted their explanations he would have had “problems allowing the board continue”.

Minister Noonan said allegations were made about the sale before and after he met with Mr Ansley and Mr Dukes.

He said the €5m pay out for Siteserv shareholder was an “essential component” of the deal because the view was they would not sign off on the transaction without the payment.

He described Anglo Irish Bank as a “bit of disaster” and said the taxpayer was forced to put €34bn into the failed bank when Fianna Fail was in Government.

The minister said he did not receive “fluid information” from Anglo or IBRC in the same way he dealt with AIB due to an arrangement agreed with the bank by the previous Government.

The previous ‘relationship framework’ meant IBRC was not required to inform the Department of Finance about commercial transactions.

Minister Noonan felt he was not receiving adequate information and changed the relationship to require the bank to alert him to any deals worth more than €100m.

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