Work of Siteserv commission extended by three months

The Commission of investigation into the sale of utility company Siteserv has been extended by three months as it emerged that the inquiry has cost more than €12m to date.
Work of Siteserv commission extended by three months

The Commission of investigation into the sale of utility company Siteserv has been extended by three months as it emerged that the inquiry has cost more than €12m to date.

The inquiry, which has yet to complete its first module, is tasked with investigating certain transactions at the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, most prominently the sale of Siteserv to businessman Denis O’Brien.

Its new deadline is the end of September.

In February, Justice Brian Cregan, the High Court judge presiding over the investigation, had requested an extension of the inquiry, which has been running since 2015, until the end of the year, but had that request denied.

Instead, the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar extended the deadline to the end of June only, citing the impact of Covid-19 and government-formation talks as the reasons, among others.

It has now emerged that Mr Varadkar on June 25, two days before ceding office to Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin and becoming Tanaiste, granted a further extension to Justice Cregan until the end of September.

Speculation had been rife as to whether or not Justice Cregan would be in a position to report his Commission’s findings in time for the end June deadline, which has now passed.

Meanwhile, the total cost of the inquiry to date stands at €12.1m, according to the Taoiseach’s office.

That official figure is split between general administrative costs of €7.9m, legal costs and sundry expenses for the State of €800,000, and costs incurred by the State-owned bank of €3.4m, including €2.8m paid out to auditing firm KPMG.

The total eventual bill involved in running the Commission have also been in the spotlight, and a wide range of estimates of its costs have been talked about.

Its initial cost projection was €4m, with the most recent estimate rising to €14m.

Mr Varadkar has suggested the final cost could be closer to €30m.

The Commission was first set up to investigate transactions that led to multi-million write-downs for the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, or IBRC, which was subsequently put into liquidation.

The IBRC had taken on the loans that were left in the ashes of what had been Anglo Irish Bank, in 2011.

Key to that investigation had been an investigation into the sale of Siteserv, now known as Actavo, to an Isle of Man company controlled by Mr O’Brien for €45m in 2012.

No interim conclusions have been advanced in any of the seven progress updates delivered by the Commission to date.

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