Costly NAMA and SiteServ Investigations Running Over Time With Little to Show
Two really significant Commissions of Investigations, one into Nama and the other into the dealings of the IBRC are according to Aontú leader and Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín “racking up serious costs with very little to show”. Deputy Tóibín stated;
“The NAMA Commission is charged with investigating the National Asset Management Agency's disposal of its North of Ireland loan portfolio, 'Project Eagle'.
“Project Eagle was a portfolio of land owned by NAMA in the North which was sold to US firm Cerberus in 2014 for £1.24 billion. Its reported that £7 million was found to be waiting in an Isle of Man bank account allegedly for northern politician or party in relation to the deal”.
“Its reported that Tughan’s, the Belfast law firm that acted as advisors to Cerberus were paid €21,000 by NAMA in fees in 2017. Its also reported that Tughan’s Managing Director Ian Coulter resigned when it emerged that he had transferred £6 million into an Isle of Man bank account without the firm’s knowledge”.
“The Commission of Investigation was established by Government Order on 13 June 2017. It was originally due to deliver its findings in June 2018 but has secured extension after extension and is now expected to report on its initial phase of its investigation at the end of September 2020”.
“The NAMA Commission has spent a total of €2,592,934. The total cost was expected to reach €10m but given the over runs this figure may well be in doubt”.
“The IBRC Commission of Investigation was formed in 2015 on the back a serious political crisis. The Commission was tasked to investigate certain transactions and decisions at the IBRC, most notably those that led to the sales of Siteserv by IBRC to a Denis O’Brien at a loss to the State of €119 million”.
“Other serious questions arose as to why was there a surge in share dealing activity in Siteserv prior to its sale, why were shareholders in Siteserv paid €5 million for an insolvent company and why were other bidders excluded from the sale process?
“The Commission of Investigation was due to issue its final report at the end of 2015 at an estimated cost of €4 million. Yet here we are in the second half of the 2020, the first module of 38 modules is not complete and has been extended a further 3 months”.
“The cost of this module is expected to top out at €14 million. The former Taoiseach has estimated that the final cost will be well be north of 30 million. However other analysts have claimed that it will eventually hit €70m”.
“€70m is approaching the cost of the initial IBRC write down that the Commission was set up to investigate. Its no small money. It equates to the cost of 14 Primary Care Centres in the year the Commission was set up. Given that shocking history of this state with regards the hundreds of millions spent on Tribunals it is absolutely scandalous that this government and the last have implemented no controls on the cost of Investigations”.
“If these commissions are running over time and cost we need to ask why. How can the estimates of professionals in this sector be so far out in terms of price and length of time? What steps is the government taking to learn from these over runs so that they don’t happen again. There is serious concern over the expenditure of taxpayer funds with negligible oversight or control".
“There is also the issue that justice delayed is justice denied. These are very serious questions. Hundreds of millions of euros of Tax Payers money is at stake due to possible wrongdoing. The truth must be revealed. Lessons must be learned. There must be accountability”.
“We in Aontú want to see justice. We want to see these Commissions get to the heart of the IBRC and NAMA decisions, but we are also calling on the government get a grip of these runaway costs now".
61. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Taoiseach the number of tribunals, public investigations and commissions of investigations in process; the length of time each has been under way; when each will conclude; the cost to date of each; and the estimated cost of each at completion. [15534/20]
Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)
Micheál Martin (An Taoiseach)
The two Commissions of Investigation for which I am the specified Minister under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 are the NAMA Commission of Investigation, for which Judge John Cooke is the Sole Member, and the IBRC Commission of Investigation, for which Judge Brian Cregan is the Sole Member. Both Commissions are fully independent in their investigations.
The NAMA Commission of investigation was established by Government Order on 13 June 2017 following consultation with Oireachtas parties. In June 2020 the Commission was granted an extension of its deadline for reporting on the initial phase of its work until the end of September 2020. From the date of its establishment to 8 July 2020, the NAMA Commission has spent a total of €2,592,934. My Department originally estimated that the final cost of the Commission, including third party legal costs was likely to be approximately €10m.
The IBRC Commission of investigation was established by Government Order on 16 June 2015, following consultation with Oireachtas parties. Its timeframe was subsequently extended on a number of occasions following consultation with Oireachtas parties. In February 2020 Judge Cregan requested an extension of the Commission’s deadline for reporting in relation to the Siteserv transaction until the end of 2020. In view of the pressures arising in relation to Covid-19 and talks on the formation of a new Government, the Commission’s timeframe for reporting was extended until end-June and then end-September 2020 pending consultation with Oireachtas representatives.
From the date of its establishment to 8th July 2020, the IBRC Commission spent a total of €7,990,162, excluding third party legal costs that have been incurred but not yet paid. The Commission has estimated that the final cost of the completion of the first module of its investigation, will be from €11 - €14 million. However, this estimate assumes the investigation is completed in accordance with the timetable stated by the Commission and excludes costs or delays associated with judicial review hearings. The Commission also acknowledges that it involves a substantial degree of uncertainty regarding the amount of costs actually recoverable by parties before the Commission, and it assumes the Commission’s Legal Costs Guidelines are not successfully challenged. My Department has given its view on many occasions, including in briefings with Oireachtas representatives, that the final cost is likely to significantly exceed the Commission’s estimate, and could exceed €30m.
The Deputy will also wish to note that the Moriarty Tribunal was established in 1997 and published its Final Report in March 2011.
Following publication of that Report, the Tribunal remains in place with a reduced legal and administrative staff to deal with outstanding legal matters and wind it down to a conclusion.
Total expenditure by my Department from the establishment of the Moriarty Tribunal in 1997 to date is €65.509 million.