Business Irish

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Up to 26 NAMA-linked properties were 'not openly marketed'

Michael McGrath
Michael McGrath

Colm Kelpie

TWENTY-six properties linked to the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) have been sold without any evidence of open marketing, the State's public spending watchdog has said.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) examined the disposal of a sample of 144 properties with gross proceeds of about €1.3bn and found 118 had been openly marketed.

The C&AG's report into NAMA's progress, released last week, said the explanation for 15 of the 26 cases was reasonable and included contractual issues in place before NAMA took over the loans linked to the properties.

But in a separate case a property was sold in Ireland for €27m but no evidence was provided to show how the buyer was selected, the C&AG report said.

Extensive marketing had taken place over a six-week period and a winning bidder was selected from a shortlist.

But the sale failed to go through, and another party, which didn't make it on to the shortlist, bought the property at the same price five months after the end of the marketing campaign.

"No evidence was provided to show how the purchaser was selected," the C&AG report said.

"Nor was there any evidence of the asset being returned to the market after the failed initial competition."

The report said NAMA stated the buyer had previously expressed an interest in acquiring NAMA-controlled assets.

The State's toxic loans agency also told the C&AG that it would have to accept a lower price if it returned to the other bidders and that it achieved the best possible price for the taxpayer by selling it the way it did.

There was also no evidence of open marketing in another four cases, with a combined sale value of €500,000, and the C&AG said the files provided no explanation for this.

The report stated that NAMA was satisfied the properties were openly marketed because fees had been paid to selling agents. The sales of six other properties not openly marketed were to state bodies in Ireland and the UK.

However, the C&AG concluded almost all properties in the sample had been sold through an open competitive process, which provided "reasonable assurance" that the prices obtained were the best on offer.

But Fianna Fail's finance spokesman Michael McGrath said NAMA needed to address the "very serious issues" raised over the handling of the sales.

"The agency has an important remit to secure the best possible return on behalf of the taxpayer and it has a duty to respond to issues raised by the state's public spending watchdog," he said.

A NAMA spokesman declined to comment further.

The report also found NAMA would meet its minimum debt redemption target unless there was a further significant downturn in the next few years.

NAMA and Department of Finance representatives are due to be quizzed by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday.

Irish Independent

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