TD questions whether NAMA Act serves best interests of Irish tax payers

Fine Gael TD for Dublin Rathdown and member of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, Josepha Madigan, has been highlighting the fact that NAMA actions in Project Eagle have been restricted by the NAMA act.

Project Eagle, the name given by NAMA to the sale of its entire Northern Ireland property portfolio, was sold in April 2014 to Cerberus, a US vulture fund, for approx €1.6 billion.

The Comptroller & Auditor General report last September found the sale incurred a potential loss to the Irish taxpayer of £190m and that Cerberus paid less than €1,900 tax on the €77 million profit it earned from the assets last year.

There have been claims that business people and politicians were to benefit from the deal which have led to several investigations.

This week it also emerged from the company filings of 15 Irish subsidiaries of global vulture funds that they pay just €250 a year in tax.

This is despite the companies having in their control €10.3 billion worth of loans and debt in Ireland and between them the 15 companies paid just €8,000 in tax which represents a loss to Irish taxpayers of up to €500 million in two years.

The analysis comes from the UCD School of Social Policy, and featured in Monday night’s RTÉ programme on vulture funds, The Great Irish Sell Off.

Speaking about the investigation into the Project Eagle sale Deputy Madigan said:

“For the last number of months, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee has investigated the sale by NAMA of its “Project Eagle” portfolio of Northern Irish assets.

“It is our role to ensure that the interests of Irish taxpayers were best served in the sale.

“We have brought dozens of witnesses before the committee for questioning over the past few months to gain a thorough understanding of the sale and to inform our report, due presently for publication.

“I have raised a number of issues with the sale: ranging from the lack of documentation kept throughout the process to potential conflict of interest issues.”

However, Deputy Madigan believes that another issue is not being given enough attention.

“A critical, if sometimes neglected issue that I have raised repeatedly, with both the Department of Finance and NAMA officials, is the impact of the NAMA Act itself on the sale of the Project Eagle portfolio.

“The Act informs NAMA’s scope for action and places heavy emphasis on “expediency” in the sale of assets.

“This has had a major impact on the “Project Eagle” sale, with many of the issues discussed in the Public Accounts Committee arising from the act’s emphasis on expediency above all else.

“The NAMA act, enacted by then Fianna Fáil led government, established NAMA as a vehicle to deal with distressed assets at the height of the financial crisis.

“Public finances were in tatters and the state desperately needed to raise funds rapidly.

“While there was an understandable logic behind the Act, given its context, its emphasis on “expediency” above all else gives rise to a number of concerns as to whether Irish taxpayers’ interests continue to be best served.

“As I have repeated before the Public Accounts Committee, the NAMA Act has given rise to a situation where haste appears to have been placed before prudence.”