By Daniel McConnell
Fifty Nama staff members have been placed on “gardening leave” for more than three months, with two on paid leave for six months, the Oireachtas Finance Committee was told.
The committee also heard the agency, which plans to wind up its operations by 2020, has 45 staff members on salaries in excess of €125,000 with a further 51 on salaries in excess of €100,000.
Claims by Nama chairman Frank Daly that the agency would be in a position to transfer a surplus of €3bn to the Exchequer when its work is completed, were criticised by the committee’s chairman John McGuinness.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr McGuinness said it is not credible for Nama to claim it will deliver a profit when it has written off almost €40bn of the original €72bn value of the loans it took over from banks in 2010.
“It is disappointing to hear such comments which are in contrast to the facts. This is a massive loss to the taxpayer,” he said.
Addressing the committee, Mr Daly said Nama is in the wind-down phase of its operations and expects to complete its work by 2020.
He rejected the view that Nama had moved too quickly in asset and loan sales.
He said the agency had to take advantage of favourable market conditions, and had to reduce its exposure on an orderly basis.
At the meeting, Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh linked the low level of residential development on sites sold by the agency to land hoarding.
He said since its inception Nama had disposed — either through loan sales or asset sales — of land sites with the capacity to deliver 50,000 housing units.
However, to date only 3,700 units had been built or were under construction, he said.
“There is no doubt that land hoarding is an issue,” Mr McDonagh said. “For any given site, there is little disincentive to hoarding as long as the owner expects house prices to rise.”
On social housing, Mr Daly said Nama had offered 7,000 properties to the national housing agency for social housing. He said demand was confirmed for 2,768 units, and more than 2,300 had been delivered.
He said Nama exceeded its targets on the completion and delivery of 4,500 homes by 2016.
Separately, in the Dáil, Mr McGuinness saw his bill, to give increased protection to those made wards of court, pass on to the second stage.
He said approximately 18,500 people are affected by an issue of funds. It was recorded that there was €1.5bn in such funds in 2015.
Almost €1bn of that figure relates to 2,500 cases that are part of the wards of court system. Mr McGuinness said the Committee of Public Accounts made a number of recommendations to the minister.
“None of them has been implemented. The rights of parents and those involved in these funds have certainly not been recognised,” he said.
“This would provide greater accountability. It is outrageous to see funds being diminished in this way, particularly when they are going towards the upkeep of an individual family member who requires extra care and assistance, Mr McGuinness said.
“It [the bill] would also bring necessary reform and answer the frustration and anger people feel over the losses they have to incur, including future losses, because of the care they have to provide to their loved ones without that money.”