Tuesday 12 December 2017

Comptroller and Auditor General defends expertise of team that investigated Project Eagle

Seamus McCarthy, the Comptroller and Auditor General. Pic Tom Burke
Seamus McCarthy, the Comptroller and Auditor General. Pic Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THE Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) Seamus McCarthy has defended the expertise of his team that investigated Project Eagle.

The C&AG’s report into the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book found that agency incurred a potential loss to the taxpayer of £190m (€223m) in the deal.

Nama has rejected the findings claiming it’s based on an incorrect assumption of the discount rate used in the sale.

Mr McCarthy said that the £190m figure that the report came to represents a "probable loss".

He said it would be "impossible" to say for sure if it is the ultimate figure and that there is could be a "margin" around it.

It also criticised the C&AG probe saying it was carried out by staff with no market experience of loan sales.

Mr McCarthy is this morning appearing before TDs at the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

He has insisted that the team he appointed are "all qualified accountants, with significant audit and evaluation experience, including audit of Nama."

He said it was led by John Riordan "who has worked on all my Office’s examinations of Nama since its inception."

"I am satisfied that the team tasked to carry out the Project Eagle examination had the requisite skills, knowledge, experience and expertise to do the required work," he added.

Fianna Fáil's Shane Cassells referred to what he described as the "unprecedented standoff" between the C&AG and Nama over the report.

He asked if Mr McCarthy was "standing firm" on its contents amid the "onslaught" against his office.

Mr McCarthy said: I'm happy with the report I've presented".

He acknowledged that there have been "disagreements" however he said he felt it was his "duty" to examine the matter and to publish the report.

The PAC meeting continues in Leinster House.

Nama chairman Frank Daly and chief executive Brendan McDonagh are to appear later today.

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