Finance Minister defends ‘integrity’ of NAMA.

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QUESTION NOS: 19,41,50

DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan)
by Deputy Clare Daly.
for ORAL ANSWER on 29/09/2016

* To ask the Minister for Finance his views on the serious allegations and revelations regarding NAMA’s activities both North and South; the steps he has taken to address these matters; his plans to freeze all NAMA activity until such time as a full and thorough inquiry into all aspects of NAMA’s work has concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Clare Daly T.D.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 29 September, 2016.
REPLY.
I assume that the Deputy is referring to allegations of wrongdoing regarding conduct of certain individuals in relation to Project Eagle and in relation to unrelated allegations of disclosure of confidential information.  In each case criminal investigations are being conducted by the appropriate authorities. Any such allegations are of course very concerning and I fully support the full investigation by the appropriate authorities of any alleged illegal behaviour.  However, I am unaware of any allegations of wrongdoing against NAMA itself.

It is important to recognise that in no way have the integrity of NAMA or the NAMA Board or the integrity of its decisions been brought into question and so I have no intention of halting NAMA’s activities.  To do so would irreparably damage NAMA’s positive contribution to our recovery and damage our reputation as a credible, open and transparent market.  By extension, any such interference would be detrimental to the interests of Irish taxpayers. In particular, it would likely:constitute the State taking direct control of NAMA and bringing NAMA debt onto the State’s balance sheet;imply a u-turn for the Irish sovereign in the eyes of the rating agencies and the sovereign bond and broader investor community, potentially increasing the cost of government debt, damaging confidence in the recovery of our economy; raise competition concerns which may limit the State’s flexibility in ultimately recovering value from NAMA’s assets; reduce the surplus currently projected by NAMA to ultimately be returned to the exchequer; and negatively impact NAMA’s ability to fund the delivery of residential and commercial units on a commercial basis.

As regards the recent value for money review of Project Eagle conducted by the C&AG, the public disagreement over the opinions expressed by the C&AG in his report are being examined by the Public Accounts Committee. Today, the C&AG and NAMA are appearing before the PAC regarding this report.  The PAC is the appropriate forum for consideration of the C&AG report and for the exercise of public accountability in these matters.

It is also important to remember that this value for money report was effectively an accelerated module of the C&AG’s normal Section 226 review of NAMA required under the NAMA Act.  As already provided for in the NAMA Act, in 2015 the C&AG committed to reviewing a broad sample of NAMA’s sales and investment decisions as the focus of his next Section 226 report.

The Government also recognises that it has its own responsibilities regarding all matters of public concern around the functions of an important public body such as NAMA. The Taoiseach has met with opposition party leaders with a view to seeking agreement on issues of public concern that may require further investigation and the most appropriate nature and terms of reference for such an investigation. Subject to the outcome of those discussions, the matter will then be the subject of a Dáil debate.  The Government s objective is to ensure that all matters of public concern are addressed in a speedy and effective manner.