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'I'm horrified Irish taxpayers are being asked to write a blank cheque'

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.”

Updated: 13.49

A FIANNA FÁIL TD has accused the Department of Finance of “writing a black cheque” to pay for the KPMG review into a number of IBRC transactions, including the sale of Siteserv.

sean fleming 14 may Source: Oireachtas.ie

Seán Fleming said he was “horrified” when the secretary general of the department, Derek Moran, couldn’t give him an indicative figure of the review’s cost to nearest million.

When Moran said he didn’t have the figure at this stage, Fleming replied: “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.”

The interaction took place at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Ann Nolan, second secretary at the department, said the scoping process of the review was delayed as the retired High Court judge overseeing it, Iarfhlaith O’Neill, had been abroad.

ann Source: Oireachtas.ie

She said she would provide Fleming with the hourly rates for the work being carried out by the special liquidators before the end of the meeting.

“Have we learnt nothing? … I’m still horrified that in this day and age the Irish taxpayers are being asked to write a blank cheque,” Fleming said.

Fleming claimed the review could end up costing taxpayers millions. He also pointed out that he didn’t want to cast any aspersions over O’Neill’s character.

Department official Declan Reid said a detailed scope of the review, including how much it will cost, is currently taking place.

After a break, PAC heard that KPMG hourly costs are as follows:

€95 – junior accountant;
€165 – senior accountant;
€190 – manager;
€220 – assistant director;
€260 – director;
€295 – partner.

Moran assured Fleming that a fee structure is in place.

derek Source: Oireachtas.ie

He said that what was needed in this instance was “an expedient response” surrounding the Siteserv sale, adding that KPMG was best placed to carry this out as it had access to all of the necessary documents.

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

Following the release of Freedom of Information documents to independent TD Catherine Murphy, public concern about the sale grew. This led to Finance Minister Michaal Noonan announcing that KPMG would carry out a review of all IBRC transactions that resulted in a loss of over €10 million to taxpayers.

As KPMG previously advised Siteserv, O’Neill was appointed to monitor any perceived conflicts of interests.

Moran said the review report should be “available for consideration” by the end of August, noting: “We’ll see where we go from there.”

mary lou 14 may Mary Lou McDonald Source: Oireachtas.ie

Mary Lou McDonald said she is “astonished” the department views the KPMG review as the best option due to “the clear and evident conflict of interest”.

She added that is was the “least transparent” choice available.

Earlier in the meeting, Fine Gael TD John Deasy said the public would be “amazed” to hear that no one in the Department of Finance contacted gardaí, corporate enforcement or the Irish Stock Exchange over the alleged Siteserv share spike in November 2011.

john deasy Source: Oireachtas.ie

I find it unbelievable, frankly, that somebody from the Department of Finance wouldn’t pick up the phone.

Last month the Sunday Times reported that 6.4 million Siteserv shares changed hands in November 2011 (days before the first bids were received for the company) - compared to just 121,000 shares traded a month earlier.

Moran, who was appointed secretary general in 2014, said he was “obviously anxious to assist the committee” in finding answers they have relating to Siteserv. He said the alleged share spike was a “matter for the stock exchange”.

Prompting Deasy to state that the attitude of “it’s someone else’s job” has “got to change”.

Nolan pointed out that no wrongdoing has been proven.

First published 1pm

Read more on the Siteserv sale:

We tried to find out who Siteserv’s shareholders are … it didn’t go to plan

Alan Dukes has A LOT to say about the ‘odd ideas’ at the Department of Finance

Murphy calls on KPMG to remove itself from Siteserv probe

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Órla Ryan

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