independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Watchdog backs NAMA valuations as bosses face grilling by TDs

Seamus McCarthy: valuations in line with industry standards
Seamus McCarthy: valuations in line with industry standards

THE State's spending watchdog has said it is "difficult to see" how NAMA could have undervalued loans.

Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) Seamus McCarthy, whose office has already reported twice on loan acquisitions by the state 'bad bank', said a number of audits and reviews by officials in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Europe had not identified any issue about valuations.

He made the comments following revelations gardai were investigating complaints NAMA deliberately undervalued property loans.

NAMA chairman Frank Daly and chief executive Brendan McDonagh have agreed to respond to questions on the controversy at a sitting of the Dail's Public Accounts Committee today.

In a statement NAMA said it welcomed the opportunity to address the issue and that it considered the PAC "the most appropriate forum" to do so.

If loans were deliberately undervalued, this would have allowed the agency to make higher profits when the loans were sold on. But it would also have exposed taxpayers to potentially paying out more to bail out the banks than necessary.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has appointed a senior officer to liaise with NAMA on the complaints.

NAMA paid around €32bn for property loans with a face value of €74bn so the banks could cleanse 'bad loans' from their balance sheets.

In doing so, NAMA effectively became the largest property company in the world.

Speaking at the PAC yesterday, Mr McCarthy said all valuations were initially conducted by valuers acting for the banks.

He said 73pc of these valuations were accepted by NAMA, with independent valuations sought in relation to the remaining property loans.

As a result, 90pc of the remaining valuations were reduced in value, leading to a writedown of €2.3bn.

The C&AG said the independent valuations had been carried out "in accordance with industry standards".

"It is very difficult to see how on a broad scale there would have been any undervaluation of the assets," he added.

ROBUST

The most recent C&AG report on NAMA, from February 2012, was conducted by former comptroller John Buckley.

He commissioned a team of valuation and legal consultants to examine the valuation process.

The report said their investigations gave "a reasonable degree of assurance that the agency's valuation processes were robust".

PAC chairman John McGuinness said he had made direct contact with NAMA after the controversy flared.

Committee member John Deasy said there could not be a situation where the controversy was allowed to continue over the Christmas and New Year period without NAMA responding to it.

Irish Independent

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