Noonan happy with Nama’s land sale role

Finance Minister Micheal Noonan said that he was satisfied with the levels of accountability in Nama after coming under pressure to change the rules governing how the agency disposes of property under its control.

A Fine Gael backbencher joined calls by Fianna Fáil for a change of the guidelines to ensure all properties sold by Nama are advertised on the open market.

The demands came following the sale of a 450-acre land bank at Douglas, Cork, for a reported €7m by agents appointed by Nama, without being put on the open market.

Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Micheal McGrath said he believed there were many similar cases.

“There is something very wrong when Nama cannot tell us, of the 663 sales that it has completed, how many of those were put on the open market.”

The Cork South Central TD said that, in the case of the Cork property mentioned, “there would have been many people who would have been interested in this particular land bank or parts of it”.

But he said: “It doesn’t just concern this case, there is a broader principle here.”

Mr Noonan, meanwhile, said the Cork property was sold following “wide engagement with viable interested parties” and on the considered advice of the agent.

However, Mr McGrath said selling agents “cannot know what a property is worth until it is put on the open market”.

He said that even if Nama believed it was getting the best price, without advertising the property it could not be certain.

“This is an issue that goes to the heart of the need for transparency in the operation of Nama,” he said during questions in the Dáil to the finance minister.

A Fine Gael TD in the same constituency, Jerry Buttimer, urged the board of Nama to reconsider the guidelines. “Under legislation, Nama has a duty to obtain the best achievable financial return for the State. When the sale of land is not done in an open and transparent manner, it gives rise to suspicions that the maximum financial return may not have been achieved.”

Mr Noonan pointed out Nama was an independent organisation and it would be a criminal offence for him to try to steer or influence a commercial decision made by the agency.

“They are accountable,” he said, pointing out that the agency had to furnish quarterly reports.


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