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Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland
confused much?

Enda: The government has 'nothing to hide' about Siteserv deal

Yesterday Enda Kenny said the C&AG had the power to carry out an investigation, but it turns out he doesn’t.

Updated 4.30pm

THE TAOISEACH HAS said the government has nothing to hide in relation to the Siteserv deal.

Yesterday Enda Kenny said the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) would look into the IBRC deal, which saw the state lose over €100 million.

However, this morning the C&AG Seamus McCarthy told the Public Accounts Committee: ”I don’t have remit to investigate IBRC.”

Speaking on his way into EU summit in Brussels, Kenny said McCarthy is “correct”, but noted the government is looking into including him in some way in any investigation.

“Clearly there are a number of options being considered here and that’s one of them.”

The government have nothing to hide here, at all. What we want is a facility that will allow for analysis and examination of this matter.

Kenny said he wanted the inquiry to take place ”as quickly as possible”, adding: “Obviously I wouldn’t want this thing to drag on at all.”

Meanwhile, the Tánaiste said she was open to an independent investigation of the deal.

An issue of remit

The issue of the C&AG’s remit was raised by the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) John McGuinness earlier this morning.

Independent TD Shane Ross asked the C&AG if the Taoiseach was wrong by stating yesterday that the C&AG did have the remit to investigate the sale of Siteserv to Dennis O’Brien’s company Millington.

The C&AG said that as it stands, the legislation does not give him the remit to do so.

Call for investigation – but by who?

Tánaiste Joan Burton addressed this during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, saying she was “in favour of a review of Siteserv and indeed of any transactions of equal magnitude that may also be worthy of inquiry”.

I just want to be absolutely clear about this – what I would like to see is an independent inquiry by a competent authority.I think that’s the way to get the correct and honest answers in a situation like this.

She said that regarding the situation with the C&AG having power to investigate the Siteserv deal, she was informed by a member of the Public Accounts Committee that there may be some change of legislation if that were to be facilitated.

The Examiner reports that Burton said if there are requirements to make any changes to the law on the issue, it will be examined.

mm leaders questions

‘Get-out clause’

The deal was brought up during Leaders’ Questions today by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, and Deputy Ruth Coppinger.

Martin wanted to know if the Tánaiste was comfortable about what has been revealed about the Siteserv deal.

McDonald said that the Tánaiste had been “either unable or unwilling to answer fundamental questions” surrounding Siteserv and IBRC.

She appealed to the Tánaiste not to use the C&AG as “a get-out clause”.

Coppinger said the issue would be “considered over the top” if it appeared in a Franz Kafka novel.

Incorrect to say C&AG had remit

Speaking on Morning Ireland, McGuinness said the Taoiseach Enda Kenny was incorrect yesterday when he stated in the Dáil that C&AG could examine the sale.

He added that Kenny was wrong to draw the independent agency in to the controversy without checking they have the remit to investigate, which he said it does not.

Legislation is needed 

C&AG could only carry out an investgation if legislation is introduced, he said.

“It’s clear that legislation needs to be introduced to enhance the work C&AG and the PAC can deal with,” he added.

McGuinness said what needs to happen now is an immediate independent inquiry clarifying what exactly happened and what losses were made to the taxpayer.

John McGuinness Dail Scenes Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

The C&AG said in the committee that he had been contacted by the Department of Finance yesterday about what new legislation would provide. He said new legislation would give them the power.

McGuinness said the PAC can get the “ball rolling” but said government needed to bring forward legislation, and quickly.

“An in-house inquiry is not acceptable.”

He acknowledged that the PAC could not bring in anyone from a private organisation such as Siteserv or Millington for questioning.

McGuinness stated that if the inquiry turned up any evidence of wrongdoing then there are other state agencies, such as the gardaí, that can take the matter further. 

pac PAC Chairman John McGuinness Oireactas TV / Screengrab Oireactas TV / Screengrab / Screengrab

McGuinness said while the committee did not have remit over IBRC, they did have a remit over the Department of Finance.

He suggested to the committee that all documents relating to the concerns officials had about IBRC sales should be sought.

He said it had been agreed to ask the department officials about what concerns they had and those are due to come before the committee on 17 May.

McGuinness said it could deal with this matter from the department’s perspective, but it didn’t have a role when it comes to private companies.

Leader of Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke that a commission of investigation in now needed, adding it would have a broader remit than the C&AG.

The sale to Denis O’Brien

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, some shareholders were paid €5 million.

Controversy continues over whether the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan asked the former chairman of IBRC Alan Dukes for an independent inquiry to be carried out in to the sale.

Noonan told RTÉ in a statement today that “it is not correct” to say the minister asked former IBRC chairman, Alan Dukes, for an independent investigation into the Siteserv transaction.

Speaking on RTÉ Six One news yesterday evening, Noonan said he held a meeting with Dukes and asked him whether an outside inquiry into the deal was needed.

Review the transaction

Noonan said he was told by Dukes that the board of IBRC had already reviewed 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.

In a statement yesterday, Dukes said the minster “did not at any stage ask me to arrange a full independent enquiry” into the Siteserv sale.

Anglo Irish Bank at Finance Committees Former Chairman of IBRC Alan Dukes Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

The spokesperson for Noonan clarified this morning that what actually happened was the minister asked Alan Dukes if he reviewed the Siteserv transaction and if that transaction had been carried out in the correct manner and in the best interests of the state.

The spokesperson said Dukes responded to say that the transaction had been carried out in the correct manner.

More documents on the sale of Siteserv are due to released from the Department of Finance today. Independent TD Catherine Murphy says she has not been told about the volume of documents she should expect.

First published 09.45am – Additional reporting Aoife Barry and Órla Ryan

Read: What exactly is Siteserv – and why is everyone talking about it?>

Read: More than one whistleblower came forward with Siteserv information>

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