Financial watchdog to stand over Nama probe

The State’s financial watchdog will stand over his investigation into Nama’s highly criticised €1.3bn Project Eagle today and defend the expertise used to probe the agency’s actions.

Financial watchdog to stand over Nama probe

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today begins its hearings into the agency’s sale of its Northern Ireland loan book.

Nama will criticise the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) and methods of investigation used by Seamus McCarthy for his probe into Project Eagle.

The C&AG report released earlier this month concluded that up to £190m was lost to taxpayers from the way the sale was conducted.

The watchdog also raised questions about the sale’s process and potential conflicts of interest over the linking of fixer fees to the deal.

PAC members were briefed by the office of the C&AG yesterday about the Project Eagle report so they had a full understanding of it ahead of today’s meeting, said sources.

The Irish Examiner understands that Mr McCarthy will defend the actions of his office and its probe in the wake of questions raised by Nama over the level of expertise used for the inquiry.

Mr McCarthy will set out the factual situation in how the report was done, and what expertise was available to his office as well as to him.

“He will outline the process he used and stand over it and verify the expertise,” said an Oireachtas source.

The PAC will also hear from Nama chairman Frank Daly and chief executive Brendan McDonagh. The agency will criticise the way the C&AG report was conducted, said the source.

Mr Daly is expected to defend the sale price. He will also “emphatically reject” what the C&AG’s office concluded in the report.

Nama will stress that such a report must be properly supported by evidence or the correct experts.

“They [Nama] think it is well short of what would be expected from the market [private sector],” said a source.

Nama will question what kind of expertise and officials were used by Mr McCarthy and his office for the Project Eagle inquiry.

The PAC will hear from Finance Minister Michael Noonan next week about the report and what he may or may not have known when the matter of fixer fees emerged concerning the sale in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Government has agreed to set up a larger inquiry on the matter.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil yesterday that he hopes to meet opposition party leaders next week and move towards finalising terms for the inquiry.

The biggest obstacle to such a probe is how it could seek co-operation for evidence as well as how it could obtain documents from across the border.

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