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Daly admits Nama slipped up - but the media saved the day

NAMA chairman Frank Daly has admitted that the highly secretive agency might never have detected the leaking of confidential information by former employee Enda Farrell had it not been for the media.

Responding to questions on the controversy at the Dail's finance committee last Wednesday, Mr Daly conceded that his officials had only examined Mr Farrell's emails after a Sunday newspaper queried his purchase from developer Thomas Dowd of a house in Lucan.

"The immediate way it came to light was the examination that we did in relation to the property transaction [uncovered by the media].

"I can't say for definite whether it would or whether it wouldn't have come to light otherwise," Mr Daly told the committee.

Clearly conscious of the gaping deficiencies in Nama's security which could be implied from his statement, Mr Daly added: "I would say if Mr Farrell was disseminating this information, I have little doubt that at some stage, at the end of the day, it's a small country, at some stage we would have got wind of this."

Notwithstanding the clear potential for Nama to suffer a loss as a result of the sensitive information leak, Mr Daly said: "All I can say to you, as we are at this stage of the investigation, we do not believe there is commercial damage to Nama.

"We do not believe there is prejudicial damage to our debtors. I acknowledge there is reputational damage and none of us want to be here today explaining this away."

But the Nama chairman was quickly made aware of the contradiction in his assessment, however, with Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty reminding him of his stated position to the finance committee on his last appearance before them.

On that occasion, Mr Daly defended the importance for Nama of strict confidentiality in relation to its loan book and its dealings with developers, saying: "Greater transparency would mean we would have to reveal our hand to the very people we're in negotiations with, potential purchasers of Nama loans and underlying property. Foolhardily, it would be like showing one's hand to an opposing player in a card game."

Separately, the Nama chairman informed the finance committee that apart from Mr Farrell, one other employee of the agency has been subject to investigation.

Mr Daly declined to identify the employee on the basis of legal advice.

Last week, the Sunday Independent revealed that Paul Hennigan -- who was only recently promoted to the position of senior asset recovery manager at the agency -- had been placed under investigation in relation to the sale of the Lucan house to Mr Farrell.

While Mr Hennigan had been directly responsible for managing Thomas Dowd's loans in his capacity as the developer's portfolio manager, there is no suggestion that he was complicit with or acting in co-operation with Mr Farrell in relation to the controversial transaction.

But while the Enda Farrell affair has cast a distinct pall over Nama, Mr Daly expressed his confidence in the agency's staff, saying: "I would be very, very confident about the probity and the integrity of Nama staff in general, and I would certainly not believe that there is any of this going on in Nama by other members of staff."

This Wednesday, the finance committee's attention will turn to the performance of the IBRC, with the bank's chairman Alan Dukes and chief executive Mike Aynsley due to appear before it.

Among the issues down for discussion will be the IBRC's efforts to operate in what Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming described last Wednesday as "the same space" as Nama, and what that means for the taxpayer.

Expressing his concern to Nama chiefs on the matter, Mr Fleming said: "What you're involved in is trying to work out these assets as best you can for the State and recover what you paid.

"I see the IBRC are actually doing the same. I see merit in both organisations being merged because it is possible there could be a level of competition between the two organisations that ultimately could be detrimental to the taxpayer."

Asked by Mr Fleming if he had any fear that Nama's decision to take some €800m worth of Maybourne hotel loans from the IBRC had disadvantaged the bank in its efforts to recover the other debt owed to them by Belfast-born property investor Paddy McKillen, Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh said: "I don't believe so."

Sunday Independent