Politics

Monday 28 July 2014

Senator calls for full-scale PAC inquiry into Nama

Darragh O'Brien said committee failed to ask 'fundamental questions'

JOHN DRENNAN and RONALD QUINLAN

Published 16/02/2014|02:30

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Fianna Fail Senator Darragh O'Brien  at Leinster House yesterday.Pic Tom Burke 30/4/13
Fianna Fail Senator Darragh O'Brien

THE Fianna Fail politician whose Seanad intervention plunged Nama into crisis before Christmas has called on the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to launch a full-scale inquiry into how the agency conducts its operations.

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Senator Darragh O'Brien said the PAC had "rushed their fences" when they agreed at the time to a request from Nama for an immediate meeting to address allegations that confidential information had been leaked by individuals employed there.

Mr O'Brien said the Public Accounts Committee, who gave themselves less than 36 hours to prepare for their engagement with Nama chiefs Frank Daly and Brendan McDonagh, failed to ask "fundamental questions".

He told the Sunday Independent: "There was a bit of a kneejerk reaction before Christmas. The PAC couldn't have done proper research in less than 36 hours into concerns about Nama. They were seriously undercooked. They rushed their fences and did a poor job as result. They need to revisit Nama before it revisits them."

Mr O'Brien says he intends to raise the matter of the "scale and the progress of the current garda inquiry into allegations of misconduct at Nama" in the Seanad this week. He will also formally request that PAC, which is chaired by his party colleague, John McGuinness, initiate what he described as a "more thorough inquiry" into the strategy of the State's so-called 'bad bank'.

PAC chairman John McGuinness told the Sunday Independent yesterday the PAC will "continue to have a rolling and serious engagement with Nama and the members will certainly be arranging that."

Having enjoyed a relatively benign period in which it had managed to avoid controversy, Nama found itself thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons on December 16 last after Mr O'Brien told the Seanad he received information which he claimed would "rock Nama to its very core".

Using parliamentary privilege, he told the Upper House that the Garda Commissioner had been requested to carry out an investigation into allegations of corruption and impropriety at Nama. Those allegations, he said, included claims that "information is being leaked from Nama and is being given to vulture funds and other investors in order to confer financial advantage on them".

Mr O'Brien's dramatic intervention proved to be the catalyst for a week in which Nama came under sustained attack with numerous allegations of impropriety being levelled against it.

Having already referred two cases involving two former employees to gardai for investigation, Nama became the subject of a third complaint when property investor Paddy McKillen went to gardai with allegations that his confidential information had been leaked.

Mr McKillen lodged his complaint on foot of a claim made by former Nama portfolio manager Enda Farrell that he had personally leaked what he described as a "full file" on the Belfast-born businessman's financial affairs while working at the agency.

While a dedicated team of detectives from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation are investigating all three complaints, Mr O'Brien believes this "should not inhibit the PAC from conducting its own investigation into Nama".

He said that while an inquiry by the PAC should focus on concerns in relation to the alleged disclosure of sensitive information by individuals at Nama, there were other significant issues which he believes need to be addressed.

"My main concern is that Nama is selling off property at the bottom of a rising market. This is a policy that could cost the taxpayer billions."

While the allegations of misconduct at Nama are understood to have caused concern in political circles, Finance Minister Michael Noonan is standing firmly behind the agency and the integrity of its employees.

Responding recently to a parliamentary question from Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty on the matter, Mr Noonan said: "It is unfortunate that the press coverage and speculation appears to call into question the integrity and professionalism of Nama and its staff''.

Sunday Independent

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