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What exactly is Siteserv - and why is everyone talking about it?

Catherine Murphy tells us about the “extraordinary turn of events” that led to taxpayers losing millions.

YOU MIGHT NOT have heard about Siteserv this time yesterday, but you’ll more than likely have come across the company in the last few hours.

Just why is everyone talking about it?

Independent TD Catherine Murphy joined us for a special High Table Interview today, in which she discussed all of the information she has gathered on the subject to date – after more than 12 months of digging.

cm redacted Catherine Murphy holds the heavily-redacted documents.

Siteserv was sold to the Denis O’Brien-owned Millington by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank) in 2012 for €45 million.

Siteserv provides a wide range of services to public and private companies, such as scaffolding for construction projects and the installation of satellite TV boxes.

IBRC had given Siteserv a loan of €150 million, meaning the bank wrote off €105 million and the State got back less than €50 million.

At the same time, shareholders were paid €5 million.

In this clip, Murphy describes the ”extraordinary turn of events” that unfolded:

Source: Video: Nicky Ryan and Hugh O'Connell

A subsidiary of Millington, GMC/Sierra, went on to win a major contract to install Irish Water meters.

Yesterday, Murphy received heavily-redacted documents through the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

These documents show officials at the Department of Finance, including Minister Michael Noonan, were concerned about the Siteserv deal and several other ‘large’ IBRC transactions.

Watch Murphy show us just how much black ink was used in the files:

Source: Video: Nicky Ryan and Hugh O'Connell

Murphy said the documents are at odds with responses to parliamentary questions she received from Noonan. The Department of Finance has said this assertion is incorrect.

Both Noonan and Alan Dukes, the former IBRC chairman, have said the Millington deal was the best option for the State.

Speaking on RTÉ Six One news earlier this evening, Noonan said he was not aware of the Siteserv deal until it had already been completed but he later became aware of concerns.

The finance minister said it was the “legal arrangement” at the time that the department did not have to be informed about commercial transactions.

Noonan noted that he subsequently held a meeting with Dukes and asked him whether an outside inquiry into the deal was needed. Noonan said he was told by Dukes that the board of IBRC had already reviewed of the transaction.

“The board had assured him, and he was assuring me, that what happened was in the best interests of the State and consequently the taxpayer,” Noonan said.

The minister went on to suggest that a separate independent review would have been useless because the deal had already been done.

You could review something if there was a possibility of changing anything but all transactions were complete, there was no possibility of a reversal, and I trusted Alan Dukes.

Noonan also said he was aware of concerns about the relationship between Department of Finance and IBRC.

Murphy said the public may never know if the “fractious” relationship that existed between the two played a role in why IBRC was wound down in February 2013.

Are you confused?

Well then let Murphy take you back to how the water metering contract first sparked her interest in the whole situation:

Source: Video: Nicky Ryan and Hugh O'Connell

Yesterday Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil that when IBRC approved the Siteserv deal in March 2012, it was not required to inform Noonan prior to the sale – as the 2009 framework under which it was operating did not include any specific monetary thresholds which would trigger a notification to the Minister.

Murphy questioned why a new framework wasn’t in place by then and why it was put in place so soon after the deal:

Source: Video: Nicky Ryan and Hugh O'Connell

Still confused?

Here Murphy gives a succinct timelines of events from the Siteserv sale to when IBRC was wound down on ‘prom night’, 7 February 2013.

Source: Video: Nicky Ryan and Hugh O'Connell

Today, Kenny said the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) will examine whether the Siteserv sale represented value for money for the taxpayer.

Murphy said she has no problem with the C&AG looking into the matter and, perhaps, as an offshoot of this, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) getting involved.

However, she said this would only be an appropriate course of action if they have time to do so promptly. Otherwise, she said an independent inquiry is needed.

With reporting from Rónán Duffy

Video: Nicky Ryan/Hugh O’Connell

Read: Spending watchdog to examine IBRC sale of Siteserv… and more FOIs to be released

Background: The curious case of an ‘obsessive’ TD, the state losing millions, and a Denis O’Brien company

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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