Wednesday 13 December 2017

Howlin has 'abandoned bank probe promise'

PAC chief says civil servants out to prevent full inquiry into crisis


Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has been accused of "abandoning" his promise to introduce a banking inquiry and civil servants are still doing their best to prevent a full inquiry, according to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) John McGuinness.

Despite being in power for 18 months, an explicit mention of the holding of a banking inquiry in the Programme for Government, and receiving a comprehensive road map into how a banking inquiry should take place from the PAC in July, Mr Howlin has not brought the matter to Government yet.

According to the list of legislation published last week for the current Dail term, there is no mention of the Inquiries Bill, which would grant the necessary powers to a committee to conduct the banking inquisition.

The Inquiries Bill is on the "C list" which means "heads have yet to be approved by Government", and "publication of the bill is not expected before 2013" at the earliest.

The lack of action by Mr Howlin is in sharp contrast to previous statements that he would "move with haste" once he received the PAC report.

His failure to include legalisation on the "A list" for this Dail term has been sharply criticised by Mr McGuinness and fellow PAC member and Fine Gael TD Simon Harris.

"There is no legislation planned for this session, and this is very disappointing. The PAC provided a clear road map . . . there should be no delay. That he hasn't even scheduled a debate on our report is very disappointing," Mr McGuinness said.

Mr McGuinness added that it appeared Mr Howlin had abandoned his promise.

But there was also criticism from within the Government's own ranks at the delay in bringing the necessary legislation into the Dail.

Wicklow Fine Gael TD Simon Harris said yesterday: "It is high time that a decision be made on this once and for all. We are four years on from the crash, and 18 months in office now. There can be no further delays."

Mr McGuinness restated his belief that civil servants within Mr Howlin's department and the Department of Finance were trying to prevent a comprehensive inquiry from taking place. "Of course they don't want an inquiry, but it is a political decision and we can't wait any longer."

In July, Mr McGuinness said "senior public servants" feared the work of his committee which, crucially, intended to investigate events both before and after the night of the infamous bank guarantee.

He said: "There is at the heart of our administration a reactionary, unprofessional and inefficient group of senior public service managers, whose veneration of the status quo and the perks, pensions and pay it gives them is costing this country a very large fortune. It is a disgrace."

In response, a spokeswoman for Mr Howlin said: "Minister Howlin plans to bring proposals for draft heads of inquiries legislation to Government in the next few weeks and following publication of the legislative proposals is confident that work can proceed quickly to draft and publish a final bill."

Sunday Independent

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