Assembly Inquiry Report on NAMA sale of Project Eagle confirms need for a Commission of Investigation - Adams
Speaking after the release of the Northern Assembly's Inquiry Report on the Sale of the NAMA loan book - Project Eagle, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has criticised the “dismal failure of the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and of NAMA to deal properly or transparently with the many serious concerns around the sale of NAMA’s northern loan book.”
Gerry Adams said; “The Assembly Inquiry report confirms our justifiable criticism.”
The Sinn Féin leader added:
“For some time Sinn Féin has been demanding the establishment of a Commission of Investigation into the NAMA sale of Project Eagle.
“The outgoing Fine Gael Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has repeatedly refused to do this. Both he and Enda Kenny have ignored the mounting public concern in Ireland, North and South, surrounding the sales process of the northern loan book by NAMA.
“They also ignore the fact that NAMA must command full public trust and confidence in securing best value for the Irish taxpayer. It does not have this.
“Sinn Féin does not believe that the taxpayer got best value for money from the sale of Project Eagle to a US vulture fund at a huge discount.
“The Northern Assembly Inquiry report notes with regret these failures on the part of Michael Noonan and NAMA and questions why they failed to abandon the sales process when another bidder, PIMCO, made a very serious disclosures to them about ‘fixers’ and fee arrangements.
“The report also invites Michael Noonan to clarify why he failed to inform the Executive of these disclosures and regrets that Minister Noonan did not encourage NAMA to attend an oral hearing of the Committee.
“Sinn Féin has submitted a private members motion to the 32nd Dáil seeking to establish an independent Commission of Investigation into NAMA and the sale of Project Eagle. This is urgently needed to examine the entirety of this debacle which is in the public interest."
REPORT SECTIONS RELEVEVANT TO NAMA & Michael Noonan
27.The Committee notes with regret the decision of the NAMA Board not to suspend the Project Eagle sales process once PIMCO had disclosed to the Agency in March 2014 that PIMCO’s proposed fee arrangement with the Brown Rudnick international law firm included also the payment of fees to Tughans, a Belfast law firm, and to a former external member of NAMA NIAC. From the evidence to date, the Committee considers this development to be a core area of concern within the entire sale and purchase process. The need for further information and clarification in this regard underlines the case for NAMA attending an oral hearing of the Committee.
28.Whilst it does not fall to this Committee to pursue, given the seriousness of the revelation by PIMCO, it is unclear why the Irish Government’s Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, did not intervene at this point, by exercising his general powers of direction over NAMA to suspend the sales process until matters were investigated fully. The Committee also notes that Minister Noonan did not inform the Northern Ireland Executive of this development. In addition, the Committee regrets that Minister Noonan did not encourage NAMA to attend an oral hearing of the Committee. The Committee recognises that the Irish Government may therefore wish to clarify these issues and to set out what steps it plans to take to prevent such shortcomings occurring in future, especially in light of the significance of Project Eagle to the economies on both sides of the border.
29.From the evidence to date, the Committee is concerned that different aspects of the Project Eagle controversy could be seen as having caused reputational damage to DFP, the Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government and NAMA respectively. In the case of DFP and the Executive, this relates to how the nominations were made for appointments to the NAMA NIAC and from the perceptions arising from involvement of Ministers with potential purchasers of NAMA-secured assets in Northern Ireland. In the case of the Irish Government and NAMA, the available information suggests shortcomings in the handling of the bidding process and related decisions. It is therefore imperative that the lessons identified to date are acted on as applicable. The committee was rightly critical of the Irish Government’s Finance Minister Michael Noonan and NAMA for the way they handled the sale.