Business Irish

Friday 23 March 2018

Former IBRC bosses hit back in row with Finance Department

Businessman Denis O'Brien makes first comments on Siteserv deal

Former IBRC chairman Alan Dukes and ex CEO Mike Aynsley
Former IBRC chairman Alan Dukes and ex CEO Mike Aynsley

Ailish O'Hora and John Downing

THE breakdown in relations between IBRC bank and the Finance Department is set to step up a gear today as former bank bosses set out their stalls.

The bitter row at official level brings a new dimension to a politically charged controversy with opposition parties accusing Government of delaying a full investigation into the the €45m sale of the company Siteserv.

Documents released overnight show Finance Minister Michael Noonan told IBRC bosses, Alan Dukes and Mike Aynsley, he was not confident in reporting business at the state-run debt recovery bank.

But Mr Dukes, former IBRC chairman, will this afternoon hold a press conference at a Dublin solicitor’s office to put his views on the matter forward.

Separately, lawyers for Mr Aynsley, the former bank chief executive, have written to the Finance Department seeking all correspondence in the matter.

Mr Aynsley is angry about a reference to him in a briefing note regarding Siteserv and is demanding copies of all documents relating to him.  His lawyer’s letter says documents released under Freedom of Information by the Finance Department blacked out  many details – but not details which reflected on his character.

“It is extraordinary that our client has been personally targeted in this manner by officials of your department.  The document released is a serious attack on an internationally respected and highly experienced banking expert who was employed as CEO of an Irish bank that was in crisis at the time and to oversee its orderly wind down,” Mr Aynsley’s lawyers state.

In the Dail the Government has been accused of trying avoid a proper inquiry into the sale of the €45m Siteserv company until after the next election.

The company was sold to a firm owned by businessman Denis O'Brien with a loss of €105m to taxpayers.

Today Mr O'Brien made his first comments on the Siteserv deal.

He told RTE that since his company bought Siteserv, employee numbers and revenues have doubled.

Mr O'Brien also said he did not run the process but that he would be willing to attend the Public Accounts Committee if it were analyse the deal.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has announced a special review of the €45m Siteserv sale and other “big transactions,”  worth over €10m, which were handled by IRBC bank which replaced the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society.

The review will be carried out by a special liquidators of IBRC, led Kieran Wallace of KPMG, who officials said is well acquainted with the issues involved. A report is expected to be completed by August 31 and then passed to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee who could pass it to the public spending watchdog, the Comptroller & Auditor General.

Mr Noonan said today that while he was "not alleging impropriety" at the bank, KPMG as special liquidators would have the skills to examine any such deals.

They have forensic accountancy skills, for example, he added.

"They will report directly to me, firstly and the report will then be transmitted to the Public Accounts Committee. There will be full opportunity for the scrutiny of the report."

The move by Mr Noonan is a clear effort to defuse three day of intense controversy which could pose serious problems for government, especially as they launch their economic “Spring Statement” next week. Opposition politicians are questioning whether taxpayers got value for money in handling of companies which went bust owing vast sums to the former Anglo Irish Bank.

But Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, said the Finance Minister had avoided taking action for two years – and the latest move merely continued that delaying process. He again called for a commission of inquiry under special legislation which dates from 2004.

“This issue is not going away. It is causing genuine concern among the public and it demands a comprehensive response,” Mr Martin said.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has all but ruled out the staging of a Commission of Inquiry into the Siteserv controversy, saying such a process would take a very long time.

Mr Kenny today confirmed that he was “mistaken” when he said the Spending Watchdog would be in a position to investigate transactions by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

Speaking in Government buildings following a meeting with the French Prime Minister, Mr Kenny said he would be willing to introduce legislation which would allow the Comptroller and Auditor General to examine the issue.

But he insisted the review into the sale of Siteserv, which is being led by IBRC’s liquidators, will be completed by August. It will then be referred to an Oireachtas Committee.

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