Finance official: IBRC was arrogant

Arrogance, a culture of ignoring damage done to the country, and a desire not to be answerable to anyone all existed in IBRC, a top official in the Department of Finance has claimed.

Senior civil servant Ann Nolan made her comments as her department was also accused of signing a “blank cheque” for an inquiry into IBRC deals, including the controversial sale of Siteserv.

The deputy head of the department said its relationship with other banks had been much more positive than with IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank.

Details of the strained relationship between the department and IBRC have emerged in recent weeks, including dissatisfaction with the €45m sale of Siteserv, which resulted in the loss of €105m to the State.

The Siteserv deal was completed in spring 2012, when there was no need for IBRC to give details of transactions to the department. Details of sales were only released afterwards, when new rules between both sides came into place.

Yesterday, Ms Nolan described to the Public Accounts Committee the strained relations that existed between both sides.

“I think there was a culture there, both at board and senior management level [in IBRC] and down through it, that never really recognised the damage they’d done to the country and that felt that their independence should mean that they weren’t answerable, even though they had taken quite a lot of money from us,” Ms Nolan said.

Asked by Labour TD Joe Costello whether the department’s dissatisfaction with IBRC was due to culture, arrogance, or [a lack of] close scrutiny”, Ms Nolan said: “I think the case could be made for all of those.”

Department officials admitted they had recommended to Finance Minister Michael Noonan that the inquiry into IBRC sales be done by KPMG, the bank’s liquidators.

However, the lack of an estimate for the inquiry, which will look at more than 30 deals, including Siteserv, was criticised by PAC members.

Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said he was lost for words that no fee had been agreed for the inquiry and that it could run into millions of euro. “After all that Ireland has been through... have we learnt nothing?” he asked.

Ms Nolan said KPMG would require hourly rates, the same as when it liquidated IBRC.

Mr Fleming later said that taxpayers were being asked to “sign a blank cheque”.

The department said it was working on a ‘scoping exercise’ with Judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill. Officials will meet him today and said they would have an estimate shortly afterwards

“The judge has been away so we haven’t put those things in place,” Ms Nolan said.

Department secretary general Derek Moran said KPMG was chosen as the probe would then be quick and “efficient”, as it had relevant IBRC documents.

The department admitted it had not contacted the stock exchange or gardaí after reports of a spike in shares traded before Siteserv was sold. No information to date had been found to suggest that anything improper occurred during the deal, the committee was told.

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