Sunday 19 November 2017

Nama’s €220m blunder exposed

The Treasury Building on Grand Canal Street
The Treasury Building on Grand Canal Street
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The State's financial watchdog has found there was a potential loss to the taxpayer of Stg£190m (€223.5m) from the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loans portfolio, Project Eagle.

In a damning report, Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) Seamus McCarthy raised questions over how the portfolio, at the time the biggest property sale in Irish history, was valued and marketed.

Mr McCarthy also criticised Nama's failure to take more action when it learned a former adviser, controversial business consultant Frank Cushnahan, stood to be paid Stg£5m by one of the bidders.

But in an unprecedented attack on the C&AG, Nama rejected many of the report's findings last night, claiming some of Mr McCarthy's main conclusions were based on incorrect assumptions.

The report said Mr McCarthy had not sought out international experts who, the agency said, concurred with Nama's decision to apply a 10pc discount to the portfolio.

The portfolio, comprising loans to Northern Irish debtors linked to over 850 properties, was sold to US vulture fund Cerberus for Stg£1.241m (€1.6bn at the time) in April 2014.

But the deal has been mired in controversy over the past year, amid allegations of corruption and plans to make secret payments to politicians and businessmen.

Pressure is now mounting for an inquiry into the affair.

Nama chairman Frank Daly said the agency "absolutely got the pricing right" when speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Thursday.

"I respect the C&AG’s review of this but I don’t agree with it. I don’t take lightly, and the people of the board of Nama, some very distinguished people, do not lightly get into conflict with the C&AG.

"I’ve worked with the C&AG for many decades in revenue and in Nama, I have the highest respect for their capability and competence. I just think in this one they did not have commercial expertise that were relevant and that we had and that we sourced," Mr Daly said.

Irish Independent

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