Sunday 18 March 2018

Senior civil servant to be grilled over €400m paid for site

Mary Moylan: assistant
secretary at department
Mary Moylan: assistant secretary at department

Dearbhail McDonald and Paul Melia

THE senior civil servant who sat on the board of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) when the price for the Irish Glass Bottle site doubled, is to be called on to explain her role.

The Irish Independent has learned that Mary Moylan, who managed the Department of the Environment's relationship with the DDDA, is one of several board members and former DDDA executives who will be compelled to appear before the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Fianna Fail TD and PAC chairman John McGuinness said it was the committee's "absolute intention" to pursue why the then government -- informed that the deal was valued at €220m -- was not told that a €400m price tag was also being discussed by the board.

Ms Moylan attended crucial board meetings when the authority decided to buy the Irish Glass Bottle site in 2006.

The Comptroller and Auditor General report into the fiasco found that over the course of three meetings in October, 2006 -- on the 3, 20 and 24 -- the board discussed the project, including the value of the site.


Ms Moylan was present at meetings on October 3 and October 24, it was confirmed yesterday. The dates are crucial because the board openly discussed paying €400m for the IGB site at a meeting on October 3, yet a letter to the Department of the Environment seeking permission to borrow up to €127m sent nine days later said the price was in the region of €220m.

Ms Moylan broke no laws by failing to tell the government about the doubling of the price for the Irish Glass Bottle site.

Compliance experts say Ms Moylan had no legal requirement to inform the department, where she served as assistant secretary and head of planning, that the price of the disastrous deal had soared to over €400m.

Civil servants who sit on state boards are required, like all board members, to operate within the code of practice for the governance of state bodies.

Although she served as the department's representative on the board, there were no formal procedures in place requiring her to report matters to the minister -- even if these could have had significant consequences for the taxpayer.

Last night the department said there was no requirement on the DDDA to report to the minister on a case-by-case basis on its commercial property transactions, or to seek ministerial approval for them.

"Decisions on entering into individual property transactions were a matter for the board of the authority unless the matter involved sanction for borrowing. The €220m figure referred to was communicated to the department in the context of an application by the authority for approval for borrowing.

"An application for approval of the purchase price for the site was not submitted by the authority as this was a matter solely for the board."

Two Anglo Irish directors, Sean FitzPatrick and Lar Bradshaw, served on the DDDA at the time the bank funded the deal.

No criminal offence occurred as both men declared their interests to the board and left meetings where borrowing matters were discussed.

Anglo netted a €3m arrangement fee for the deal.

The taxpayer is nursing a €53m loss as a result of its investment in the glass bottle site.

The site was bought for €431m by Becbay, a consortium that included the authority, but is now valued at a little over one-10th of that, at €45m.

The biggest winner in the sale was former tax consultant Paul Coulson, who netted an estimated €30m personal profit from an initial peppercorn rent of IR£10,000 a year for the 24-acre brownfield site in Dublin 4.

The biggest loser was Becbay, which is now in receivership.

And the DDDA lost €52m on the failed investment.

Irish Independent

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