Tuesday 24 April 2018

TDs hit out at Honohan for Dail no-show

Governor of the Central Bank Dr Patrick Honohan at the announcement of the banking stress test in Dublin yesterday
Governor of the Central Bank Dr Patrick Honohan at the announcement of the banking stress test in Dublin yesterday

Daniel McConnell Political Correspondent

CENTRAL Bank governor Patrick Honohan has been severely criticised over his refusal to appear at the Dail's Public Accounts Committee.

Last week, the committee wrote to Prof Honohan demanding he come before them to explain the Central Bank's role in the €54m Newbridge Credit Union bailout, the Royal Sun Alliance affair, and the major breach in data protection involving thousands of credit cards.

But it emerged that the governor, through his spokesman, had sent a letter rejecting the committee's request to come before it.

The hearing heard that Prof Honohan felt it was not "preferable" to do so in the absence of a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), which is the normal basis of the PAC's investigations and hearings.

However, Prof Honohan's refusal to attend is a rare break in the established custom for state officials to appear before the powerful watchdog committee when requested.

Committee members roundly rejected Prof Honohan's reasons for refusing to come before them, and have resubmitted their request for him to attend.

PAC chairman John McGuinness told the meeting: "The governor has relied on the fact the only time he appears before this committee is on foot of a report from the C&AG, and we don't have such a report."

Independent TD and PAC member Shane Ross said the committee should not accept Prof Honohan's letter.

"We should not accept what he is saying. He is saying he will come before the finance committee on his own terms. I don't also accept that they don't talk about individual cases, when he went into considerable detail on Newbridge on RTE's 'Prime Time' last week. I wouldn't accept what he says," he said.

Referring to the governor's stated preference to operate within "established channels", Mr Ross said: "I don't give a hoot what the preference of the bank is."

Fine Gael committee members John Deasy and Kieran O'Donnell asked the Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy, for his advice on the matter.

Mr McCarthy said he had been given audit powers over the €250m bailout fund for troubled credit unions and the committee also had oversight over the Department of Finance, which was also involved in the Newbridge bailout. On that advice the committee unanimously agreed to again communicate with Prof Honohan and the Central Bank to request their attendance before them as soon as possible.

Mr Deasy told the meeting: "I would be very wary of any state entity constructing a convention about their appearance and non-appearance before an Oireachtas committee.

"These bodies have to be accountable to the Oireachtas. We need to insist on the basis of our mandate."

Irish Independent

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