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Spending watchdog to examine IBRC sale of Siteserv... and more FOIs to be released

Earlier, Alan Dukes denied any impropriety in the sale of Siteserv to the Denis O’Brien company.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Updated 12.40pm

THE COMPTROLLER AND Auditor General (C&AG) is to examine IBRC’s sale of Siteserv to the Denis O’Brien-controlled company Millington.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil that following a meeting with the Finance Minister Michael Noonan this morning, the C&AG, who examines whether public money is being spent effectively, is to examine whether the €45 million transaction in 2012 represented value for money for the taxpayer.

Documents released under FOI outline concerns

The matter arose when independent TD Catherine Murphy received documents from the Department of Finance under Freedom of Information, which outline the concerns of department officials about the bank formerly known as Anglo, which was wound down in 2013.

She said the heavily-redacted files, which you can view in full here, contradict responses to parliamentary questions she received from Noonan.

Kenny confirmed during Leaders’ Questions that further documents will be released under Freedom of Information tomorrow. He said they will include minutes of meetings in the Department of Finance which outline Noonan’s position.

The matter was raised by the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. Micheál Martin called for an independent inquiry into the sale.

Earlier, former IBRC chairman Alan Dukes denied any wrongdoing in the matter and said that all aspects of the deal were considered and in “the best course of action available” in the interests of the State.

He “categorically rejected” any other suggestion of impropriety.

Meanwhile, Noonan said he is “satisfied the actions he took were sufficient” in relation to the sale of SiteServ by the former Anglo Irish Bank, reports Newstalk.

No 2 CrokePark 2 Campaigns Independent TD, Catherine Murphy. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

‘Poorly executed’

The documents include expressions of concern from senior department officials that the deal to sell Siteserv was “poorly executed”. Dukes said the Department of Finance raised questions amid comments from the public that the company had made a non-compliant bid.

He said the concerns were discussed at a meeting in July, which Noonan attended.

They were again discussed at a meeting between the Minister for Finance and representatives of the board at a meeting in July. During that discussion, the board representatives informed the Minister that the matter had been referred to the Central Bank, which had no comments to make. At the conclusion of that discussion, the Minister professed himself satisfied with the bank’s reasoning and decisions.

ACOI Conferences Alan Dukes Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

It was raised at the meeting that the sale occurred two years before the public contract to install water meters.

He adds in the statement that at no stage did Noonan ask him to arrange a “full independent inquiry”.

Contrary to what was stated in answer to a recent Dáil question, the matter was not raised by the Secretary General of the Department with the bank’s CEO in August 2012.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White said he had not yet had the opportunity to discuss the matter with Noonan, but that he had no reason to disagree with Dukes that the best deal was obtained.

File Photo IN AN INTERVIEW with the Irish Independent newspaper today, Energy Minister Alex White said that nuclear power needs to be looked at as part of a debate about Irelands energy needs Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White. Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

He said the civil servants that raised concerns about the sale were “doing their job” and that ultimately it was the minister’s job to make a call on the sale.

Independent inquiry

White said it was not up to him to make the call on whether an independent inquiry should be set up.

He added that the country has changed since 2012, but that he was sure the government would address any concerns there were on the issue.

In the Dáil yesterday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin praised Murphy for “doggedly” pursuing this issue.

He called for an independent inquiry and rejected the claim by the Taoiseach that he was not fully briefed on the issue.

Fine Gael - Standing Up For Small Busi Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

The Taoiseach said 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.

Back in March, Siteserv Holdings Limited issued a statement saying it was disappointed that Catherine Murphy  ”continues to make repeated unfounded public accusations in relation to the circumstances surrounding the sale of Siteserv PLC… ”

It went on to say that Siteserv publicly denied these accusations in 2012, adding that any attempt to “continually portray the transaction in such a negative manner is completely without foundation and is purely agenda-driven”.

The reason the Millington bid was successful was that it was viewed by the Board of Siteserv PLC as the one that was in the best interest of the company and its employees and by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited (IBRC) as the best outcome for the State.

- additional reporting Órla Ryan and Hugh O’Connell

First published 7.30am

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

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