‘Cabinet confidentiality’ blamed for withholding files

THE Department of Finance has blamed “cabinet confidentiality” as one of the reasons for not releasing files to TDs looking into the events surrounding the night the Government decided on the bank guarantee.

The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said yesterday it had been waiting nine weeks for documents about discussions between officials on September 29, 2008 – the night the bank guarantee was put in place.

Department secretary general Kevin Cardiff wrote to the committee this week telling TDs that he was “anxious” to cooperate with the request for files but that a number of difficulties were preventing their release.

“I am hemmed in somewhat by some of the constraints that go with this kind of documentation, such as legal privilege, cabinet confidentiality, contractual confidentiality provisions and the ongoing commercial sensitivity of some records.”

PAC chairman Bernard Allen outlined the committee’s frustrations in trying to obtain files around the bank guarantee.

He said he was aware of issues facing the department of finance but added: “We have a responsibility to deal with issues affecting the taxpayer.”

Mr Cardiff said in his letter that he hoped to be in a position to deliver the key documents on the bank guarantee to the committee by yesterday evening.

TDs on the PAC yesterday agreed that, if the documentation was received, they would hold a special sitting about the bank guarantee files next week once members had reviewed them.

The move comes after criticism from the opposition that the revised terms of reference for the banking inquiry do not go far enough as they fail to allow for an investigation of government decisions.

The cut-off point for the inquiry has been extended from September 29, 2008, but Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said again this week that Government decisions on the banks would remain off-limits.


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