Sunday 25 February 2018

Finance snubs Dail watchdog on banking inquiry documents

Secretary general of the Department of Finance John Moran
Secretary general of the Department of Finance John Moran
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

THE Department of Finance will not hand over papers to the Dail's public spending watchdog that were used in the Nyberg inquiry into the collapse of Ireland's banking industry.

Secretary general John Moran said the department had gathered more than 9,000 documents for use by the Commission of Investigation into the Banking Sector, headed up by Finnish civil servant Peter Nyberg.

The inquiry, published in 2011, sparked controversy when Mr Nyberg effectively blamed society and the media, along with bankers and regulators, for the banking crisis.

In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Mr Moran said evidence to a commission is given in private.

And he said sorting the documents to determine what could be released would entail "significant costs in staff time and resources".

"If the Government and Oireachtas decide to commit a further inquiry into banking, the nature of any such investigation, its terms of reference, and what committee or other structure should conduct any such inquiry could include guidelines and instructions for the disclosure of any relevant information and approve the expenditure required in any such exercise," Mr Moran wrote.

PAC requested that it be given any departmental records from the period in advance of the controversial bank guarantee of September 2008, as well as releasing any redacted material.

Mr Moran said a review of previously released redacted documents was being conducted to see what could be made public.

But he said documents containing legal advice will not be released, even if there are no legal proceedings ongoing. Documents covered by cabinet confidentiality or are deemed to be commercially sensitive will also not be made public.

Mr Moran said the documents collated for the Nyberg inquiry were to include communication between the Department of Finance and Central Bank, records on economic, fiscal and financial stability matters.

He said the records were compiled on foot of a direction from a statutory commission and that persons who give evidence or produce documents in such circumstances enjoy the same immunities as a witness in court proceedings. "There will be significant costs in staff time and resources in having more than 9,000 records examined to see what parts might be released," Mr Moran wrote.

PAC chair John McGuinness said the committee, which is working on a report on bank stabilisation, would insist Mr Moran release the documents.

"The release of all relevant documents from the Department of Finance, including the meeting on the night of the bank guarantee and those who attended, are essential pieces of information for the work of the committee," Mr McGuinness said.

"It's an essential piece of our work. The country wants to know."

Mr Moran said he was lookiing for the committee's direction on the matter.

Irish Independent

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