Fionnan Sheahan: Whatever happened to Coalition's promise of transparency?
Published 19/12/2013 | 02:30
'We will insist on the highest standards of transparency in the operation of NAMA, on reduction in the costs associated with the operation of NAMA, and that decision-making in NAMA does not delay the restoration of the Irish property market." -- Towards Recovery: Programme for a National Government 2011-2016.
The operation of NAMA caused enough concern for Fine Gael and the Labour Party for the coalition parties to include a clampdown in the Programme for Government.
The revelations at the National Asset Management Agency this week would suggest the Government has failed in that commitment.
While in opposition, Fine Gael and the Labour Party raised plenty of questions about the activities in the world's largest property company.
Government and opposition parties alike are casting a cold eye on events in the secretive state property agency.
Allegations of corruption, claims of leaks of information jeopardising business interests, and garda investigations do not create a picture of "transparency".
Taoiseach Enda Kenny admitted yesterday that "serious" allegations about property values being manipulated en route to NAMA have to be dealt with.
When NAMA was set up in 2009, it took over €74bn in toxic property loans given out by bailed-out banks, but it paid €31.8bn for them to reflect the collapse in the property market.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin says his party will be giving gardai information about the alleged manipulation of the value of property loans being transferred to NAMA.
He quoted a statement from an unnamed person who said that there had been perfectly good loans written down in value in the banks "to keep the NAMA dream alive".
"I was the one they relied on to get the massive low valuations. I destroyed people with these valuations," the person said.
Mr Martin said these assertions that property valuations had been manipulated were extremely serious.
The crisis currently engulfing NAMA centres around the agency making a criminal complaint against two former employees.
The activities are confirming many of the suspicions that have been circulating in political circles about NAMA.
The movement of staff from NAMA to property companies even came up at a meeting of the Dail Public Accounts Committee only three months ago.
Fine Gael TD John Deasy established that 10pc of the staff members who left the company went on to work for property and private-equity buyers.
Mr Deasy put his questions to NAMA officials a couple of times to get the information he wanted.
NAMA chief executive Brendan McDonagh said the reality was people have the right to move job, but there were confidentiality laws in place.
"The reality is that people will come to work in NAMA, where they will work for a number of years, after which they will try to get a job somewhere else. This is what is happening," he said.
The revolving door of staff at NAMA is now prompting demands for light to be shed on the organisation.