Banking inquiry paid €400k to lawyers

The banking inquiry has paid almost €400,000 to barristers and solicitors for external legal advice, and racked up large bills for catering, taxis, and expert fees.

Significant costs have also accrued for managing a huge volume of documents, courier services, transcript and broadcasting fees, as well as security for the inquiry.

Details obtained by the Irish Examiner under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the expenses and costs built up by the banking inquiry for all of last year.

The inquiry, due to publish its report in the coming weeks, defended some of the costs, saying expert advice and services for its TDs and senators had been needed.

The highest-paid external lawyers advising the inquiry were Charles Meenan SC (€109,000), Patrick McCann SC (€76,109), and Sara Moorhead SC (€30,190). Some €41,524 of total fees for Mr Meenan were reportedly for work during one month.

The hourly rate for barris-ters externally advising the inquiry was believed to have been set at between €264 and €275 initially, before a lower sliding scale came in.

Separately, Beauchamps Solicitors was paid almost €100,000 for external legal advice for the inquiry, including work on setting it up.

Economist Karl Whelan along with business advisory group FTI Consulting were paid an estimated €160,000 to advise TDs and senators about the ‘context’ part of the inquiry’s work, which looked at the banking system and practices in general.

The Oireachtas also revealed the expenses paid out to specific witnesses for hotel and flight costs. They included €3,155 on flights for Canadian finance expert Rob Wright and €440 for his Dublin city centre hotel.

Flights and hotel costs were also paid for Finnish finance expert Peter Nyberg (€685), former IMF deputy director Ajai Chopra (€1,811), and Boston College professor Ed Kane (€1,961).

A significant sum was also paid out for systems and software to manage the large volume of documentation handled by and submitted to the banking inquiry.

The setup and operation of the documentation management system over the full year, supplied by Fujitsu, cost an estimated €151,000. An inquiry spokesman defended this, saying the same system could be used for future Oireachtas inquiries.

Some €142,000 was paid to Hays Specialist Recruitment Ltd for hiring investigators for the probe. This was separate from what the investigators were actually paid over the full year.

Other expenses accrued for the year included taxis and couriers to collect documents, among other services, which amounted to almost €16,400; a website (€14,000); furniture for the inquiry (€110,000); and transcript services (€110,000).

Food and catering services for the inquiry’s members, its staff, and some witnesses cost almost €7,000. Audio and broadcasting services for hearings cost an estimated €50,000 for the year.

Security for the inquiry, supplied by the Office of Public Works, amounted to €53,000. An inquiry spokesman would not say what this related to and whether it was for computers or actual security at buildings.

The FoI showed that €52 was spent on bibles used by witnesses giving evidence, while €12.50 was spent on copies of the Constitution.

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