Tuesday 17 July 2018

Nama rejects criticisms from Stormont inquiry

The Treasury Building on Grand Canal Street Lower where NAMA is based. Photo: Tom Burke
The Treasury Building on Grand Canal Street Lower where NAMA is based. Photo: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Nama has hit back at damning criticism of the agency in a report by the parliamentary inquiry into the €1.6bn sale of the Project Eagle northern loans portfolio.

The inquiry, by Stormont’s Committee on Finance and Personnel, criticised as 'particularly unhelpful' Nama’s refusal to give oral evidence.

It also found the Nama board should have halted the sale of the portfolio, the largest Irish property deal in history, after learning the sales process may have been compromised.

The agency went ahead with the sale despite learning that a former Nama advisor, Frank Cushnahan, stood to earn Stg£5m from one of the bidders.

But in a letter to the Stormont committee chairman, Daithi McKay, Nama chairman Frank Daly said he did not accept the findings.

Mr Daly said it had always been Nama’s position that it was accountable to the Oireachtas.

He said Project Eagle had been discussed extensively at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee and those transcripts had been provided to the inquiry.

Some 350 pages of documents and written answers to 105 questions had been submitted to the inquiry, he said.

Mr Daly said that at no stage had the committee indicated what information Nama could provide in oral evidence that it had not already provided in writing.

The Nama chairman also rejected the inquiry’s finding that Nama should have suspended the sales process after learning of the proposed fee for Mr Cushnahan.

Mr Daly said the inquiry had not considered the risks such a decision would have caused to Nama.

Investors might have been reluctant to invest time and money in carrying out due diligence and bidding on other loan or asset portfolios.

He also said the abandonment of the sale could have had very costly consequences for Nama and the recovery of the Irish market.

The inquiry report also stated that Nama’s claim that advisors such as Mr Cushnahan did not have access to confidential commercially sensitive information had been contradicted by another advisor Brian Rowntree.

However, Mr Daly reiterated that no confidential information was provided to members of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee (NIAC).

Mr Daly said that as chairman of that committee, he had been vigilant in ensuring its members were not provided with any confidential information.

“I am satisfied, despite Mr Rowntree’s most recent comments, that the NIAC did not have access to Nama confidential information,” Mr Daly wrote.

Mr Daly also accused the Stormont committee of a lack of fair procedure.

He said it was regrettable its report was published without Nama being given an opportunity to first respond to its findings.

“Even though we have no obligations to account for our actions in any jurisdiction other than the Republic of Ireland, we have sought to be as helpful to your committee as possible and are therefore surprised at the unsubstantiated and unfounded suggestions to the contrary that have been included in your report,” he wrote to Mr McKay.

Mr Daly asked the committee to “correct the record”.

Mr McKay accused Nama of frustrating the committee’s investigation.

Speaking on a visit to Leinster House, the Sinn Fein MLA said: “I think the report yesterday was a report born out of frustration. A lot of parties refused to cooperate with the committee.

“We were surprised that Nama refused to cooperate with ourselves. Nama have been to the assembly before.

“They have met with ministers, they have cooperated with representatives in the North on many occasions.

“But on this occasion, they chose to frustrate the committee and to frustrate the inquiry that we had set up.”

Mr McKay said the committee had been united in its criticism of Nama.

“It is worth noting as well that this was the unanimous view of all five political parties on the committee,” he said.

“I don’t believe that the position that Nama took on our inquiry was tenable. I think when the Assembly resumes again, I would be hopeful that Nama reconsiders its position.”

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