Business Irish

Tuesday 16 January 2018

NAMA guru tipped for key job of second secretary in finance

Joe Brennan

Senior Department of Finance official Ann Nolan has emerged as a leading contender to fill the key vacancy of second secretary in the financial services division.

Ms Nolan, an assistant secretary at the department and an important figure behind current policy on financial services, has had special charge of the National Asset Management Agency project over the past 14 months.

It is understood fellow assistant secretary William Beausang, who has led talks with the European Commission on the restructuring plans of the country's bailed-out lenders, has decided not to put his name forward for the top position.

A number of short-listed candidates, including senior civil servants and outside contenders, were interviewed last week to fill the role left vacant by Kevin Cardiff's promotion earlier this year to secretary general of the department.

Described by one former colleague as "scarily bright" and a "someone who can get to the nub of a problem extremely quickly", Ms Nolan is a mathematician by academic background.

The imminent appointment of a second secretary to the department comes as Fine Gael works on policy to overhaul the treatment of the country's top 600 civil servants as part of broader public sector reform.

It follows a scathing attack by party leader Enda Kenny on the dearth of talent in the department.

The main Opposition party wants to see the country's top public servants appointed on a fixed-term basis -- and those who fail to deliver be returned to the ranks.

Fine Gael has conceded, however, that the process would take time as it can change existing contracts.

Mr Cardiff admitted early last month that the department had failed to forecast the depth of the financial crisis in 2008. Speaking before the Dail's public accounts committee, the secretary general said that mistakes were made by the department, but that its forecasts were in line with those of other agencies at the time.

He also conceded the department did not have "sufficient expertise" in its ranks to tackle the banking crisis and that it needed to "increase its level of specialist skills".


It recently hired a professional banking analyst, a banking accountant and legal adviser, he said, but still needed more.

Meanwhile, senior department officials are anxious about the public fallout from two reports, due to be published next week, on the banking crisis. Failures to regulate banks and too many property tax breaks will be highlighted in the reports.

One report, from leading international banking experts Klaus Regling and Max Watson, looks at the banks' activities in the years leading up to the crisis.

The second, from the Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan, focuses on roles played by the Central Bank and Financial Regulator. The department performance is likely to feature in both.

Irish Independent

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