Sale of Siteserv: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

“That Dáil Eireann:

notes that:

— in 2012, Siteserv owed €150 million to Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC;

— in March 2012, IBRC sold Siteserv for €45 million;

— external trade buyers were excluded from the sale of Siteserv and there are questions about due diligence;

— some bidders were also excluded from the sale and may have saved the State some money;

— Siteserv shareholders received €5 million at the time of sale;

— there are genuine concerns about the sale of Siteserv for €45 million by IBRC; and

— Department of Finance officials have raised concerns about other IBRC sales as well;

acknowledges:

— the huge public concern about the sale of Siteserv;

— the dissatisfaction that information, obtained through freedom of information, FOI, highlighted that relations and trust between the IBRC and the Secretary General, as well as officials in the Department of Finance, had broken down; and

— there are now concerns about other sell-offs by IBRC;

condemns the appointment of KPMG to undertake a review of transactions in IBRC as it advised Siteserv during the sale and there are public concerns about a possible conflict of interest; and

calls for an independent commission of inquiry to be set up to examine the circumstances surrounding and leading to the sale of Siteserv in March 2012, and other company sell-offs by IBRC so that the interest of the taxpayer can be fully protected and transparent.”

I wish to share time with Deputies Niall Collins, Micheál Martin, Timmy Dooley and Robert Troy.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Private Members' motion in the name of the Fianna Fáil Deputies. I am very happy the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, is in the House to hear what we have to say directly. I know the Minister will respond in due course as the debate proceeds up to 9 p.m. tonight.

The motion notes that, in 2012, Siteserv owed €150 million to the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC, and that it was sold in March 2012 for €45 million; in the process, some bidders were excluded from the sale although they may have saved the taxpayer and State a lot of money; Siteserv shareholders received €5 million at the time of sale; there are genuine concerns about the sale of Siteserv for €45 million by IBRC; and the Department of Finance expressed serious concerns about the sale. The motion acknowledges the huge public concern about this matter; the dissatisfaction that information obtained through freedom of information highlighted a breakdown in trust between IBRC and the Secretary General and other key officials in the Department of Finance; and the concerns about other sell-offs by IBRC. While the Minister has sought to respond to this, our motion specifically condemns the direction by the Minister to appoint KPMG to undertake a review of the transactions in IBRC as KPMG advised Siteserv during the sale and there are public concerns about a possible conflict of interest. As we have said from day one in this debate, we are calling for an independent commission of inquiry to be set up to examine the circumstances surrounding and leading to the sale of Siteserv in March 2012, and other company sell-offs by IBRC, so full information can be obtained in the interest of the taxpayer and the wider public interest.

Essentially, this started off as a business transaction. On 16 January 2012, Siteserv told the Irish Stock Exchange that it was exploring its corporate options. Everybody knew this was code and it was essentially up for restructuring, resale or takeover. Two days later, a company called Better Capital wrote to Siteserv expressing an interest and stating it would be interested in purchasing. It was never contacted, included in the process or asked to make a bid. That is the first difficulty, in that people who were offering to come in, possibly with a decent price, were not even advised of the process. Ultimately, the next Better Capital heard about it was after the Irish Stock Exchange announcement two months later, in March, that the company had been sold. During the course of the sales process, another company, Rutland Partners, had offered €55 million and there are reports that at least two other companies offered amounts greater than the €45 million that was originally offered and ultimately accepted. A key concern is why so many people were excluded from the process who could have reduced the loss to the taxpayer.

In simple English, Siteserv owed the taxpayer €150 million through IBRC, yet it was ultimately sold for €45 million, which is a loss of €105 million. If that was not bad enough, what happened next is that the shareholders of that company were given another €5 million of taxpayers' money, bringing the total loss to the Irish taxpayer to €110 million.

The Minister is the sole shareholder of IBRC. He calls the shots, he owns the company and he directs the directors. Everybody in IBRC was there on his behalf but he was oblivious to what was happening on his watch. He was asleep at the wheel while this was going on and it is the taxpayer who is the loser in all of this. That €110 million has to be borrowed, given we are still borrowing money this year, and it has to be paid back with interest over the years to come because of the loss on that particular deal, which is aside from other losses that have also emerged during this process.

On 15 March 2012, as I said, the deal was done and announced to the Irish Stock Exchange. KPMG, one of the major companies in town, was involved and advised Siteserv on the sale. I will say here and now that I trained as a chartered accountant and qualified with a company that is now essentially a KPMG company. However, I do not like the directive the Minister has given to that company. Many people felt, when it was appointed to that job last Friday week, that in some way KPMG was interested in taking up the job and was willing to do it, despite the conflict of interest. However, it is clear from the ministerial direction issued by the Minister that this is a direction to KPMG, the liquidator. As the Minister has special powers under the liquidation legislation to direct the liquidator to carry out certain functions on his behalf, KPMG is caught having to do the Minister's bidding whether or not it thinks it a good idea. The people in KPMG know it is not good for KPMG to be embroiled in this but they have no option and no say because the Minister has the legal powers in the legislation to direct them to do that.

The Minister has also directed that if there is prima facie evidence of any material deficiencies in the performance or functions of those acting for IBRC, KPMG is to include this in the review and report, and it will also examine the processes, procedures and controls which were operated by IBRC in regard to the relevant write-offs. Finally, to be clear, the Minister directed the liquidator to appoint, with his prior approval, an appropriate independent person to monitor for any conflicts of interest. That has been done and Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill has been appointed. However, the fact the Minister had to do that proves he knew there was a conflict of interest issue. He should not have taken this road and I think the road he took in appointing KPMG to do this was the wrong one.

I ask myself why he did it, given this has been a political controversy for some time. First, the Taoiseach came into the Dáil and said he knew nothing about it. Then, he came back a few days later and said we will appoint the Comptroller and Auditor General to examine it. He did not know what he was talking about but we are used to the Taoiseach, when he strays into matters financial, never getting it right. It happens on every occasion, and I refer to another example here last week. He then realised the Comptroller and Auditor General had no legal power to do this. The Tánaiste came in the following day and said she wanted somebody else who was independent to do it. The Minister then came into the fray and said he would get KPMG to do it. Of all the options proposed, foolhardy and all as the Taoiseach's comments were, and light and all as the Tánaiste's comments were, the Minister has actually come up with the worst option of the three of them.

The Minister's press release announcing this stated, "The Special Liquidators are best placed to undertake such a review thoroughly and expeditiously – given their access to all books and records of IBRC [and] the resources at their disposal to conduct such a review."

He essentially said he appointed KPMG because it could do a short-cut. It was working in the bank, could do a quick job and get things over with quickly. He wanted it off the political agenda and asked for any old report. He knew there was a conflict and then had to appoint a judge to try to clarify the issue. Many people will object to the manner in which the Minister chose KPMG solely because it could do a quick job. It is better to get things right. We have always asked for an independent commission of inquiry. I would prefer to get to the truth even if it takes a couple of months longer. The people of Ireland want the truth.

The process the Minister has started is tainted and will be tainted when the report is completed by KPMG on 31 August. It will be tainted when the Minister publishes it and hands it to an Oireachtas committee to consider it further. That process will be tainted for several reasons. He started with a conflict of interest and appointed the wrong people because he wanted a report in a hurry. It is a bad process and he is doing himself a lot of harm by going down this route. Even at this late stage, I would support him if he was to pull back from the measures he has taken in appointing KPMG to do this job.

The Minister has directed the special liquidator to review the transaction that occurred from 21 January 2009 until 7 February 2013, the date of the appointment of the special liquidator. What about all of the deals that were ongoing when it was appointed? What about the deals that were completed before it came in? What about all the deals that have been completed since 7 February 2013 and those transactions in IBRC that have yet to be completed?

As the Minister knows, the House sat until all hours to deal with his emergency legislation. There was some €13 billion in debt on the books of the IBRC on the night the Minister put it into special liquidation. How much taxpayers' money has been written off inappropriately as part of that €13 billion? It was the net amount on the balance sheet after provisions, but I am sure the level of gross debt was in the order of €25 billion. People will want to know not just what was written off prior to the liquidator arriving, but what happened after it arrived and how much of the original value of the loans has been written off.

The Department of Finance has had concerns all along. As bad as the format of the inquiry is, the Minister would not have set it up unless he believed there was something to investigate. These questions must be answered. Some of the questions which have to be asked and answered as part of this process include why there was a surge in share dealing in Siteserv prior to the sale. One of the reasons that has been publically stated is that some of the shareholders in Siteserv also owed money to IBRC. It has a lien on the shareholders because it knew if it passed some money back to the shareholders, it might get some of it back off its loans.

There is a clear conflict of interest between the role of IBRC, those who owe it money and the shareholders in Siteserv. Why were the shareholders paid €5 million of taxpayers' money for an insolvent company? Why were bidders excluded from the process? I do not know what the joke is; taxpayers are not laughing. Taxpayers are paying for that write-off out of borrowed money with interest. The Minister might think it is a joke, but there are people who are paying their mortgages and do not get a penny from the bank. They see one set of rules for those on the inside and another for ordinary citizens. They do not see that issue as a laughing matter. I advise the Government to take this matter seriously.

The longer the Minister laughs at this, the more harm he does to himself. He should not be carrying on the way he is and making a joke of this. Then again, this deal has characterised the Department of Finance. Deputy Catherine Murphy tabled 18 or 20 parliamentary questions over many months, on which she is to be complimented. When the Minister gave an interview, he said she did not ask the right questions. That is no way to run one's business. He said when she submitted the freedom of information request she got the right answers. A senior Government Minister is dismissing, with the back of his hand, the relevance of the national Parliament and saying he will give information from his Department through freedom of information that he will not give by way of parliamentary questions and replies.

He has undermined the Government's claim of a democratic revolution and a change in how we do business. It is the same old story in the Department of Finance, that is, to tell nobody nothing. Deputies should not be forced to go through freedom of information when they ask a question in the Parliament. There is still a culture of secrecy.

I refer to the amendment to the motion. If I was IBRC, I would be very worried about it. It is self-serving and implies that the Department of Finance knew, saw and heard nothing, that nobody told it anything, that it did not ask questions and that it heard about things from newspapers. The Minister, as a shareholder, should have been on top of this. We heard many times about regulators being asleep at the wheel. The Minister was the sole shareholder of the company when this happened and the people expect better from him because he was managing the economy fairly well.

The troika did not oversee this, but it is another example of a difficulty. When the Minister did business of his own, he was not doing the job on behalf of the taxpayer. All of these losses occurred on his watch and after he appointed the special liquidator, further losses to the taxpayer continued to occur. There will be a further writedown of the €13 billion in loans, about which there is no word. The Minister studiously prevented the liquidator or an independent commission, which we would like, from examining what happened to the €13 billion.

The amendment states that Department of Finance officials were not made aware of the details and goes on to state that the Minister received files, but no minutes were included and that the first he heard of the issue was when a member of the public wrote to him about media reports after something appeared in the Stock Exchange. His defence is that he knew nothing. The manner in which he went about this has elements of Bart Simpson, namely, that it is not his fault because he knew nothing. That will not work. People expect more from a Minister for Finance and for him or her to look after their interests and money, and not wash €110 million of their money down the drain. The Minister presided over that. This issue is not going away and the Minister's actions have exacerbated the political problem for himself.

It does not stand up to any reasonable form of scrutiny for anybody to say with a degree of credibility that there is not a conflict of interest or a perception of one. I have no axe to grind or connection with KPMG, but it was at the centre of this transaction before it became involved with IBRC. It was appointed as the special liquidator without a tendering process on the night the Bill was passed. It has had a vested interest throughout the process and was involved with Siteserv and now IBRC as a special liquidator. It is front and centre in regard to these transactions.

It is not credible to ask it to do a report into itself. One has to ask whether it will write a report which will be critical of itself. To offer by way of explanation that it is in possession of all the paperwork and has the knowledge, as a special liquidator, of handling the case does not stack up to any degree of scrutiny. There is no reason that KPMG could not be ordered to hand over copies of the paperwork to an independent commission of investigation. That is what rankles with people, namely, the fact that the common thread running through this issue is KPMG.

People have made presentations to the effect that arms length commercial transactions, which they have tried to rationalise, were involved. They have tried to provide explanations, for example, on "Prime Time" on RTE. There was a haircut of €105 million. At the same time, other bidders were excluded. When one adds everything up, people have a right to be worried. One can contrast that with the parallel of distressed mortgage holders who are trying to negotiate with the banks. They see big business getting haircuts and writedowns not on one, but on at least three occasions, for the company behind Siteserv. When they try to negotiate with the banks they are met with a veto.

We have been told a retired High Court judge is overseeing the investigation by KPMG into the Siteserv transaction.

There is no independent oversight in a negotiation process for a mortgage holder who is trying to sit down and hammer out an arrangement with a bank. The bank will exercise its veto, which was raised by our party leader during Leaders' Questions today. My colleague, Deputy Michael McGrath, has proposed legislation in that regard. The difference of approach is so palpable when it comes to big business vis-à-vis the citizens who are trying to get on with their lives but are saddled with mortgages they cannot pay. The bank is screwing them to the wall and that is making people very angry.

The only way to get to the bottom of this is to have an independent commission of investigation. This would remove the conflict of interest from the equation and the argument. The special liquidator is to report by the end of August and it would be opportune for the banking inquiry to look at that report. The terms of reference of the banking inquiry include events after the crash up to December 2013, and include "persons who were the recipients of commercial loans, including for commercial property, from the credit institutions within the scope" of the schedule.

It is significant that there was such a large write-off in the Siteserv deal. There was also a €64 million write-off of debt in respect of Blue Ocean Associates and a reported write-off of €150 million for Topaz. The same individuals are behind all three transactions. I am not happy that KPMG is doing the report because in my view there is a conflict of interest. There is a perceived conflict of interest and people are not happy about it. If the Government is minded to have a special commission of investigation, it should allow the banking inquiry to examine the matter when the special liquidator reports at the end of August.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this important debate. I do not know if there was anything wrong with this transaction, but it is clear from the number of questions raised on all sides of and outside the House that it warrants further investigation. It warrants an investigation with more credibility than KPMG can bring to the table. I am not going to reiterate the points my colleagues have made but for the life of me I cannot understand why the Minister for Finance and the Government are not prepared to put in place a credible alternative to investigate this matter.

The Minister and the Taoiseach have made many charges against my party over the last years. Terms like "axis of evil" and "golden circle" were used to good effect at a time when the country was challenged in a very particular way. The Government rode the crest of a wave on the back of those comments and platitudes.

Deputy Mattie McGrath said that, a golden circle.

Careful now. If Deputy Hayes wants to go down that road, he will come out the wrong end of it.

Although I can understand the Government playing that game, if we were to look at the cast of characters involved in this particular deal and compare it to the way things were strung together when Fine Gael was last in government - circumstances which led to a particular finding from a tribunal - it would be a convincing view that the real golden circle, the real axis of evil, existed when Fine Gael was in office and is emerging again now that it is back in office. I am not going to add to that but it should set the context for establishing a fully transparent and independent investigation.

The Minister should look at the way in which people were treated; €105 million is a hell of a lot of money and €5 million to the directors of a bust company is a phenomenal amount. Yesterday I was in the home of a family that has been evicted by a bank. They owed €140,000 and were thrown out in January and are living in rented accommodation. They got nothing when they were pushed out the door. The State will not even give them rent allowance because they have to be renting for six months to qualify for it. The Minister should try to convince the woman of that family that she is being treated fairly and equitably by the State.

We have a burst company that gets a debt haircut of €105 million and the shareholders walk away with €5 million. Deputy Fleming has talked about the transactions that happened in the days preceding the final deal, which will be dealt with through some form of investigation later, if not now. The special liquidator will come back in due course and say he does not have the powers to address all of this. What about the other companies that have had their loans sold by IBRC and did not get that exclusion from hawking their books around between their competitors? There are many small to medium enterprises that were funded through Anglo and, by virtue of the Minister's decision to liquidate IBRC, found their loans being offered to their competitors. They did not get the kind of protection this company got.

I ask the Minister to help me explain to that housewife the notion that he is dealing with this fairly and equitably. He should help me explain it to the small to medium-sized enterprises that have had their books opened to their competitors in an effort to sell on their loans. Some of the Minister's colleagues have indicated that receivership would have damaged the value of Siteserv. Why was its loan book not traded and offered around like others?

Will the Minister help me explain to a very annoyed public how somebody who apparently represented IBRC and by extension the Government could go on "Prime Time" and say that votes had to be bought and that is the reason €5 million needed to be ponied up? What was the rush to get this deal executed? I do not understand it and I sure as hell know that there are very few people outside the doors of this House who understand it. I remind the Minister that senior officials in his own Department certainly do not understand it. At the end of tonight's debate, I ask the Minister to accept that there is a problem here, perhaps not of his making, and to put in place an appropriate independent investigation that will give some sense of credibility to what we are all trying to do in this House.

I wish to address four key issues in respect of this affair. First, the sale of Siteserv itself; second, the relationship between IBRC and the Department of Finance; third, the nature and narrow remit of the proposed inquiry; and, fourth, why vital concerns raised by Department of Finance officials were effectively withheld from the Dáil for so long.

The sale of Siteserv is an important issue of public interest. A subsidiary of this company subsequently went on to win three contracts linked to water metering, totalling €62 million each. The fundamental error was made when the company itself and its directors were given the sale to conduct, at arm's length from IBRC. Everything else stems from that wrong decision. Indeed, civil servants in the Minister's Department raised that very point. There was no logical reason to exclude trade dealers. What has been said in public about that - the idea of confidentiality being a cause for concern - is a load of nonsense.

There are numerous confidentiality templates and clauses which cover situations like this across the board, in banks and elsewhere, when it comes to the disposal and sale of companies. The idea a raft of people in the market, and market leaders in this field, were excluded from any chance to purchase the company makes no sense and there is no logic attached to it. The exclusivity period was also wrong and higher bids were excluded. The Sunday Business Post reported last weekend that UK private equity fund, Rutland Partners, tabled a bid of €55 million but it was rejected due to conditions attached. Better Capital claims it was shut out of the process. We also had Altrad, Anchorage and others who equally feel they were shut out.

There is also the €5 million payout which was shocking and scandalous. The fundamental rule is that if a company is gone, the shareholders' equity is gone with it. The idea that €5 million would be paid to bribe the shareholders and get them to agree to the sale does not wash. There is no justification for it. When we consider that people in mortgage arrears and people with all sorts of issues with banks do not get anything like this treatment, we begin to see and understand the sense of resentment in society when this kind of thing goes on and the whole idea that if one is on the inside and people know each other, things can get done.

We know about the share dealing in advance of the sale itself. Why did people buy shares in a bust company? There was a sudden upsurge in share sales in the month before IBRC began to receive the first bids for Siteserv as part of a confidential sales process. In November 2011, some 6.4 million shares were sold in the firm, compared to 121,000 in October 2011 and 4.76 million between January and October the same year. Who were these investors? Will we find out? Will the inquiry cover this issue? On what information were these investors acting? These are legitimate questions.

Another key issue is the relationship between IBRC and the Department of Finance. Will this be covered by the inquiry? Will civil servants be brought in by the inquiry and asked very basic questions? We have learned from the freedom of information documentation that civil servants in the Department of Finance raised a range of significant issues about the conduct and behaviour of IBRC. There was, for example, the hiring of Blackstone without public procurement. Blackstone is a company which is well used to buying distressed assets. It had full visibility of everything in IBRC. I learned through a parliamentary question replied to today by the Minister that officials in the Department "are aware that IBRC proceeded with the appointment of the company referred to in the question without following a standard procurement process".

The CEO of IBRC at the time used his authority under bank policy to waive the requirement of Board approval for the engagement. IBRC felt that given the sensitivities around the piece of work which the company referred to in the question was engaged to undertake, they decided that a targeted selection process for this limited piece of work was the best approach to take.

One individual, the CEO, decided to hire Blackstone and gave it full visibility of every portfolio in IBRC. It made millions out of the assignment. Was it €4 million or €5 million it made out of it? This very serious issue was raised with the Minister.

We also have the Apthorp deal, where the adverse deviation from valuation norms was between $25 million and $50 million. Again, officials at the Department were very concerned about it. This was raised by an executive in IBRC and the Department was alerted. There were issues pertaining to how IBRC dealt with Topaz when Mr. O'Leary was the majority shareholder. There were issues about how major clients were handled by IBRC, such as the Quinn family, Denis O'Brien and Paddy McKillen. This is all in the freedom of information documents. There was the Siteserv deal itself, which necessitated an entire memo from the Department of Finance such was its concern about how the company was sold.

We also have the failure to sell IBRC Wealth Management and the relationship between it and IBRC proper. There were perceived conflicts of interest between them in terms of how transactions were conducted. William Fry was brought in to do a report on the relationship between IBRC Wealth Management which managed a lot of wealth on behalf of many individuals and IBRC, and how the two operated as two separate legal entities, apparently, in the one edifice. What was that about? Last week, I asked the Taoiseach if he would publish the report from William Fry on the perceived conflict of interest. Will the Minister take steps in this regard? Will the inquiry encompass this issue, which was of such concern to the Department of Finance that it necessitated the secondment of a departmental official to the bank?

The Minister knows there was a lot of hostility about that decision between the Department and the chairman, the CEO and the bank itself. Last week, we read the chairman, Alan Dukes, wrote serious letters complaining about the individual to the Department. This hostility was not good enough from the bank's perspective. On whose behalf did it think it was acting? Did these people forget they were acting essentially as agents of the State? It was outrageous carry on and the demonisation of the Department of Finance which has happened subsequently is equally outrageous. I have not noted anyone from the Government contradicting what the chairman, Alan Dukes, said about Department of Finance officials in any shape or form and this is wrong. Someone should stand up for the civil servants who raised legitimate questions.

Why were these concerns withheld from the Dáil for so long? Four months and 13 parliamentary questions later, Deputy Murphy eventually got some detail because freedom of information was hurriedly coming down the tracks. Why did the Minister not tell the Dáil about the list of concerns which has now been documented in freedom of information documents? Why was it withheld from the Dáil? Was the Minister afraid of upsetting somebody or upsetting the apple cart? Was it better to leave well alone? No one can quite understand why this information was withheld for so long from the Dáil, and Deputy Catherine Murphy in particular, in the context of the liquidation of IBRC when we were told everything was grand and everybody was good and behaving. We then learned from the documents much later that everything was not grand.

This brings me to the nature and type of the investigation. It is a fundamental error of judgment to appoint the same company involved in advising on the sale to investigate the sale. Do not give me the stuff about Chinese walls and different divisions; with regard to a conflict of interest and the perception of a conflict of interest, it is a no-brainer and an error of judgment on the Minister's behalf. The Labour Party is going along with it, although the Tánaiste told me she wanted an independent competent authority. I do not understand why the Government is ramming through this particular mode of inquiry. It suggests an arrogance and a detachment from public anger. There is arrogance, perhaps because of the overall majority, that the Government can ram through whatever it likes and can stitch this into an inquiry with a narrow remit, because many of the issues I have outlined will not be covered, and we will be told whether there are material deficiencies and that it meets normal commercial sale standards. This is all it will be asked to come up with. It is a stitch up in many respects to get the outcome the Government wants in the time covered.

It is wrong to proceed on the basis the Minister has decided to proceed with regard to satisfying genuine public interest provoked by the concerns of civil servants in the Department of Finance, primarily with regard to the conduct of IBRC in these large transactions and the sale of Siteserv.

I welcome this opportunity to speak on this important motion and I compliment Deputy Catherine Murphy on bringing the issue to the fore in the public arena. Very often in politics perception can be confused with reality. A number of very serious questions remained unanswered despite freedom of information requests, several parliamentary questions and the issue being raised copious times by our leader during Leaders' Questions. I will refrain from discussing my opinion on what happened in the lead-up to the deal and the deal itself.

Given the level of uncertainty, and the mistrust between the Department and IBRC, there is an urgent need for the issue to be dealt with in an open and transparent manner.

When the Government came into office, it promised that everything would be dealt with in an open and transparent manner. There is a perception of sweetheart deals and we want to ensure that it did not happen. We want to ensure no favourable treatment was afforded to certain individuals because of their relationships with members of the Government and we want to ensure there was no insider trading. A State-owned financial institution was dealing with a commercial entity. The primary aim of a commercial entity is to make a profit. We want to ensure that what happened was carried out in an appropriate manner, that there was no favourable treatment and that the best value for money was returned to the taxpayer. The only way we can ensure this happens is for a fully independent investigation under the Commissions of Investigation Act to be carried out. This would ensure it is removed from all levels of uncertainty. In my constituency office, or walking down the streets of Mullingar, Longford or Athlone, I meet people and they ask me why a big business can get a €100 million writedown but they cannot afford to pay their mortgages to keep the roof over their heads. Why is there one treatment for a State-owned financial institution or big business and different treatment for the ordinary individual trying to keep a roof over the family? We have repeatedly raised the issue of 300,000 people paying in excess of 2% above the average interest rate in the rest of the EU. Why is that happening while big business gets a reduction of €100 million in a sweetheart deal? It is important the Minister comes out and ensures openness and transparency so that everyone can have confidence. There is no confidence at the moment.

I propose to share time with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, and the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Tom Hayes.

The mismanagement of the economy and the financial system by the Fianna Fáil-led Government wrecked the country. Anglo Irish Bank, more recently called IBRC, and the billions of taxpayers' money put into that bank in 2009 and 2010 will never be recovered. The impact on this country of the decisions taken by the Fianna Fáil-led Government to support Anglo Irish Bank, more recently called IBRC, with €34.7 billion of taxpayers' money has been immense. We are not talking about €105 million but about the €34.7 billion from the Fianna Fáil-led Government when the current leader of Fianna Fáil was a Minister.

Today's motion in the Dáil arises as a consequence of those decisions. The legislation that provided for the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank allowed the bank commercial freedom in its operations under the direction of its chairman and board of directors. There was no day to day role for the Minister for Finance and no reporting requirement to the Department of Finance for transactions such as the Siteserv transaction. The legislation introduced by a Fianna Fáil-led Government in 2009, in nationalising Anglo Irish Bank, made it difficult for the Minister and the Department of Finance to exercise governance over IBRC and to ensure its accountability. Under the oversight or relationship framework that applied prior to 29 March 2012, the period during which the board approved the Siteserv transaction, the board of IBRC was not required to consult with the Minister for Finance on transactions such as Siteserv and did not do so. The relationship framework was put in place by the Government of which Deputy Martin was a member and created governance difficulties for the Department of Finance. It was difficult, under this system the Deputy put in place, to hold IBRC to account.

A relationship framework dated 8 July 2009 was in place at the time the board of IBRC approved the sale of Siteserv. Under this relationship framework, the board of IBRC were required to engage with the Minister for Finance on certain key issues, which included any material acquisitions, disposals, investments, realisations or other transactions, other than in the ordinary course of Anglo Irish Bank's banking business. It should be noted that this relationship framework did not include any specific monetary thresholds which would trigger mandatory consultation with the Minister for Finance. It should also be noted that at that time the ordinary course of the bank's business was to conduct an orderly wind-down of the bank. As such, IBRC's efforts, as a secured lender, to maximise the recovery on its loans to Siteserv was considered to be in the ordinary course of business. For that reason, and under the relationship framework in place at that time, IBRC was not required to consult with the Minister for Finance on this matter in advance of making the decision to approve the sale of Siteserv and it did not do so. The Department and the Minister operated in accordance with the legislation and the relationship framework put in place by the previous Government. The chairman of the board quoted by Deputy Martin was appointed to the board of IBRC by my predecessor, Brian Lenihan, and was subsequently made chairman of the board by the late Brian Lenihan.

That is not relevant.

It is relevant.

The bulk of the board was appointed by the previous Government. When the Deputy makes these allegations-----

I did not make any.

Deputy Martin's colleagues-----

The Minister's civil servants made them, and correctly.

Of course there was a Government issue and it was difficult to ensure accountability but the law was on the side of IBRC because the law was introduced by Deputy Martin and his colleagues.

The Minister did not tell us.

Deputy Martin knew, given that he put it in place.

A revised relationship framework and operational protocol, dated 29 March 2012, was introduced between me, as the Minister for Finance, and IBRC. This was a condition following Ireland's third review under the EU-IMF programme of financial support. This was a requirement for all banks who benefited from capital injections to protect the commercial basis for the banks' operations while under Government ownership. The revised relationship framework and operational protocol contained specific consent-consultation procedures between the bank and me, as Minister for Finance, which included monetary thresholds.

The revised relationship framework and operational protocol outlined the instances in which IBRC was required to gain consent from me or consult with me, as Minister for Finance, and these instances went beyond individual transactions and-or disposals; they also included consent for board approvals, management appointments and litigation matters. Following the introduction of the new relationship framework and operational framework, the board of IBRC commenced forwarding board packs and minutes of board meetings to the Department of Finance. The April 2012 board pack contained the minutes of the board meetings held on 20 March 2012, 21 March 2012, 28 March 2012 and 13 April 2012. However, there were no minutes included in the April board pack of the board meeting of 15 March 2012, at which we subsequently learned the sale of Siteserv had been approved. This pack of board documents, including minutes to which I referred, was the first pack of board documents and the first minutes forwarded to the Department of Finance under the new relationship framework. IBRC was previously not required to provide this information under the old relationship framework, which Deputy Martin approved when he was a Minister in government.

The Department of Finance was not involved in the sale process or any of the decisions taken during the sale process. I have been informed that my officials were not made aware of the details of the transaction during their monthly meetings with IBRC management in advance of the decision of the board to approve the sale.

Following a thorough search of the records and correspondence received, I have been informed that the Department of Finance did not receive board packs or minutes of the IBRC board meetings prior to the introduction of the revised relationship framework that came into operation on 29 March 2012. As I have stated, under the relationship framework that was in place prior to 29 March 2012, the board of IBRC was not required to consult with the Minister for Finance on transactions such as the sale of Siteserv and it did not do so. Following the approval of the board and the sale of the company, my officials requested and were provided by IBRC with details and a timetable for the transactions.

In June 2011, following an independent review of the strategic options for the business and the level of debt in the company, the IBRC credit committee approved Siteserv's commencement of an orderly process to sell itself. IBRC was a creditor of Siteserv and had an interest in the maximisation of the proceeds of sale of the company to maximise the recovery of the company's debts to IBRC. Following IBRC's approval, the sale process was run by Siteserv, along with its advisers, KPMG Corporate Finance and Davy Corporate Finance. IBRC appointed Walter Hobbs as its observer to the sale process. Anyone who has been following this in detail heard Mr. Hobbs explain the position as he understood it on a recent "Prime Time" programme. The board of IBRC met and approved the sale of Siteserv on 15 March 2012. On 16 March 2012, given that Siteserv was a member of the enterprise securities market, the proposed disposal of Siteserv to Millington was announced at the Irish Stock Exchange. As per the RNS on the Irish Stock Exchange, completion of the sale was subject to a number of conditions, including receipt of approval of the transaction from the Irish Competition Authority. After this announcement to the stock exchange, there would have been media attention around the transaction.

Following a thorough search of e-mails and documents held by the Department of Finance and discussions with the Department officials involved, I am informed that the first record relating to the sale of Siteserv is dated 23 March 2012. This was an e-mail from a member of the public relating to media reports around the sale of Siteserv. The first parliamentary question was answered on the sale of Siteserv on 3 April 2012 with a further question on the matter answered on 18 April 2012. It is important to note that my Department conducted a review of the transaction in June 2012 so any concerns around the transaction were not known either to me or to my officials when answering parliamentary questions prior to June 2012. No further parliamentary questions were answered regarding Siteserv in 2012 or 2013.

Two parliamentary questions were answered on Siteserv in 2014. The first parliamentary question answered on Siteserv in 2014 was on 21 October 2014, with a further parliamentary question answered on 16 December 2014, which stated "The sale process involved two stages and IBRC was briefed after each stage”. Remember, Siteserv was doing the sale. Siteserv briefed IBRC after each stage. It goes on:

The board of Siteserv, as advised by KPMG Corporate Finance and Davy Corporate Finance, recommended the successful bid as representing the best return for IBRC. I am advised that the board of the bank at that time were satisfied that this was the case.

It was Fianna Fáil’s board, with a chairman appointed by Fianna Fáil. It had fiduciary responsibilities and it assured everybody that the best value was achieved on the sale in the manner in which it was conducted. Its advisers supported it in this.

Of course they did. Their clients were involved. Davy's clients were involved.

Would Deputy Martin say that outside the House, if he is so sure of his ground?

It is said outside the House. There is no argument about it.

Would he say it outside the House?

Order, please. The debate will be through the chair.

It has been said outside the House.

What is Deputy Martin trying to say?

I am not saying anything.

What is Deputy Martin trying to imply?

What is the Minister trying to imply?

The Minister, without interruption.

On 4 March 2015, I next answered a parliamentary question on the relationship framework that was in place when the sale of Siteserv took place. On 26 March 2015, I next answered three parliamentary questions on Siteserv in which I detailed meetings held between my Department and IBRC on Siteserv and also around the steps that were taken when reports of certain details around the transaction came to the attention of my Department. A further 30 parliamentary questions have been answered by me since 1 April 2015 up to 30 April 2015 on Siteserv and details relating to the transaction.

Returning to the period when the deal was first brought to my attention and that of my officials, as my officials became aware of reports of certain aspects of the Siteserv transaction in April and May 2012, they inquired about the transaction with IBRC management as part of their regular engagement. Following initial discussions, they agreed with IBRC's chairman and CEO on 31 May 2012 that the Department would review the available information on the transaction involving Siteserv in greater detail to better understand the decisions taken and the impact these decisions had on the process and the final recovery for the bank. This review by Department of Finance officials took place on 11 June 2012. Through this review, Department of Finance officials became concerned with certain aspects of the transaction. Details of the concerns were set out in the memos and briefing notes that have been released under recent freedom of information requests and which are available on the Department of Finance website.

Following this review, on the 25 July 2012, I met with IBRC's chairman and CEO to discuss, among other things, the concerns regarding this transaction which were raised following Department engagement with IBRC management. At this meeting, the chairman provided me with strong assurances that the transaction had been thoroughly assessed by the IBRC board and that the board of IBRC was satisfied that the transaction was managed in the best manner possible to achieve the best result for the State. It should be noted that the IBRC board had a fiduciary responsibility to the bank's stakeholders and so, in light of this legal responsibility, the chairman and the board would have considered and provided such assurances following serious and careful consideration. I accepted these assurances from the chairman of IBRC. However, as is also evidenced in the information released under freedom of information, engagement continued between Department of Finance officials and senior management of IBRC to improve upon the working relationship with IBRC and to help protect against such concerns arising in the future, including the implementation of the revised relationship framework and the secondment of a senior Department of Finance official to IBRC as a senior executive to facilitate IBRC's ongoing deleveraging. The senior official remained seconded to IBRC until the liquidation of the bank in February 2013.

Furthermore, in light of the recent concerns raised before the Houses of the Oireachtas and elsewhere regarding the Siteserv transaction and the public discourse this has caused surrounding the handling of other transactions undertaken by IBRC, I have directed the special liquidators of IBRC to review certain transactions which occurred between 21 January 2009, the date of the nationalisation of IBRC, and 7 February 2013, the date of the appointment of the special liquidators to IBRC.

The Minister's 15 minutes is up.

I will take back a little time.

The review will cover transactions that resulted in a capital loss to IBRC of at least €10 million during that period or which are specifically identified by the special liquidator as likely to give rise to potential public concern, in respect of the ultimate returns to the taxpayer. Retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice larfhlaith O'Neill, will monitor any actual or perceived conflict of interest with the review. The review and report will evaluate whether there is any evidence of material deficiencies in the performance of their functions by those acting on behalf of IBRC, including the board, directors, management, employees and agents of IBRC and whether it can be concluded that any of the transactions were not commercially sound. I have asked that the special liquidators carry out this review and provide a report of their findings before 31 August 2015. Following this, I will make this report available to relevant committees of the Oireachtas. If the committees still have concerns, they may proceed as they see fit.

I stress that the commission of this review and report is to serve the public interest in light of recent speculation and is not being undertaken as a result of any evidence that such deficiencies existed or that transactions were not commercially sound. The special liquidators are best placed to undertake such a review thoroughly and expeditiously given their access to all books and records of IBRC, the resources at their disposal to conduct such a review and the power set out under the IBRC Act, which allows me to make this direction in the public interest. As I have said, in order to manage and-or mitigate against any actual or perceived conflicts of interest, I have directed, with the agreement of the special liquidators, that retired High Court judge, Mr Justice larfhlaith O'Neill, monitor any actual or perceived conflict of interest with the review. I am confident that this will ensure that the review process is robust.

As mentioned, I have given the special liquidators a deadline of 31 August 2015 to complete the review and report their findings. I have already received correspondence from the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform requesting a copy of the full report once completed and a copy will be made available to the committee for its consideration. Depending on the findings of the review, further investigations will be initiated as and if appropriate. The Government is fully committed to taking whatever steps are deemed necessary to facilitate this, including legislative change.

There are 12 minutes left in the slot. Ten minutes are to go to the Minister, Deputy Howlin, and the remainder to the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Hayes.

I will take ten minutes and my colleague, the Minister of State, will take a different slot. I am pleased to make a contribution to this debate and thank my colleague, the Minister for Finance, for sharing time.

At the outset, I congratulate Deputy Catherine Murphy for her work on this issue. As the Minister responsible for the reform of the freedom of information legislation, I am pleased to see it used in a constructive fashion. The public interest will be better served for having this debate. I also congratulate my colleague, the Minister for Finance, for the speedy action he has taken on this matter from the point at which it was first brought to his attention. When concerns were raised with him, following the approval by the board of IBRC of the Siteserv deal, his officials conducted a review of the transaction. Following that, as he outlined, he met with the chairman of IBRC and sought his assurances that the transaction had been conducted in the best interests of the bank and ultimately the taxpayer. The then chairman of IBRC provided those assurances.

Under the previous reporting arrangement, IBRC was not required to report on individual asset disposals. There was no monetary threshold that would trigger mandatory consultation with the parent Department, the Department of Finance. There is nothing inherently suspicious about this; it was the arrangement that Fianna Fáil put in place in relation to these matters. The IBRC board and executives were in the business of conducting an orderly run down of the bank. That was their job. Their job was to dispose of the asset at the best price and conditions for the taxpayer. Indeed, the interests of the bank and the taxpayer were apparently allied in this regard.

The Minister for Finance made the critical decision at the end of March 2012 to alter the reporting arrangements and to put in place a different one to that put in place by the previous Government, to allow for the first time for the Department of Finance to have more direct supervisory control over IBRC activity than was the case up to that point. To facilitate the effective working of this arrangement he appointed a senior official from his Department to IBRC to provide additional advice to the bank, and the official remained in place until the bank was finally liquidated in 2013.

Whether the party opposite likes it or not, some humility is required, and it would be appropriate for it to acknowledge that the new framework initiated by the Minister, Deputy Noonan, constitutes a considerable improvement in the accountability framework that it put in place, that it is now criticising, when it was previously in government. In summary, the Minister's decision constituted the appropriate response to any concerns that may have arisen in relation to IBRC disposals and the Minister took action promptly. I wish to be clear because there is much innuendo enmeshed with some of the contributions presented to the House, that it is not to suggest that IBRC did anything wrong. Any decision it made is capable of being second guessed now. At the end of the day what we are discussing here is a distressed asset. Nobody is suggesting that the board of IBRC could have recovered anything approaching full value from Siteserv as a company either as a going concern or by way of disposal. Furthermore, we will never know the outcome of any alternative course of action because no alternative course of action was pursued. The Department of Finance, in the material released under FOI, is clear on that point. Indeed, from what I have heard, this particular issue is thankfully notable in so far as no serious charge is being made of improper conduct around any individual or body. Perhaps the Deputies opposite would clarify that.

Hindsight may well be 20:20 vision, but that should not blind us to the difficult position in which the State and IBRC found themselves in 2012. From the relative comfort of our greatly improved financial position in recent times, we can forget how problematic and precarious our position was as recently as 2012. There is also a case to be made in that what the material released under FOI to Deputy Catherine Murphy indicates is a proper and healthy scepticism and challenge being displayed by the parent Department, namely, the Department of Finance, in relation to one of the bodies under its auspices.

Members should bear in mind that a committee of this House is currently meeting in inquiry mode to examine the level and appropriateness of scrutiny afforded to the banking sector during the so-called bubble years. I am heartened to see public servants - officials in the Department of Finance - being rigorous in the protection of the public interest. As we have been informed, the Minister for Finance and the Government have now asked the special liquidator to examine IBRC transactions and have appointed a former, much respected High Court judge to preside over any potential conflicts of interest that might arise.

At the heart of the matter appears to be the point at which there is a divide between the Government and Opposition. Let me say this: the Minister for Finance's decision is guided by the need to have a speedy process to get to the facts concerning these transactions. The special liquidators and the people he has appointed are the way to do that, because they are the ones in the right place to have speedy access to the data.

As the Minister repeated tonight, he has not ruled out any further action following the production of the report, and indeed has already undertaken to provide it speedily to the committees of the House for them to take what action they choose. In addition, the Minister has committed to publish the report and make it available to all. As I have indicated, Judge O'Neill has been appointed to oversee this entire process.

The contention of the Opposition, which I believe to be made in good faith, is that a commission of investigation should be appointed. Such criticism is somewhat disingenuous. Members will recall that commissions of investigation were established in 2004 as an alternative to what proved to be the costly and time consuming tribunals of inquiry which dominated public life for more than a decade. They were a good idea at the time and constitute an improvement on the previous position. Nonetheless, commissions of investigation remain legal processes and take a lot of time. In fact, if issues were to be hidden, we would probably go that route because as we have seen from previous inquiries, they would be pushed into such a timeframe that they would be unlikely to impact on-----

What about the inquiries into the Dublin diocese and Ferns?

-----immediate electoral contests that might arise next year.

The Minister can leave that alone. The electoral contest is not the issue.

To initiate such an inquiry would undoubtedly take longer and cost more than the approach advocated by the Government. We have said that if it is decided that such an inquiry is needed, it will be provided. We will do whatever is required to get to the full truth. However, what is asked is that people would wait for the facts before turning a charge into a result.

The Taoiseach did not-----

I appeal to Members opposite for some perspective and a degree of patience in this regard.

It is not uncommon for Opposition Members to decry the amount of time a commission of inquiry might take. We have experience of inquiries that went on for years that we expected to be conducted very speedily. Once one establishes a commission one has no real control over the timeframe. It might suit politically for people to demand a commission, even though it is patently obvious that the most expeditious way is the route mapped out by the Minister to get the full facts into the public domain-----

It will not give the full facts. It is too narrow.

-----speedily and thoroughly. Unless the Members doubt the bona fides of the individuals concerned, I ask them to give space for the investigative mechanisms that have been put in place to come to their conclusions and present a report.

In truth, it is my belief that had the Minister for Finance moved directly to set up a commission of inquiry, the Deputies opposite would be equally scandalised.

They would have accused us of delaying access to the full facts. They would have accused the Minister of trying to bury the facts and trying to push the decisions well into the future. They cannot have it both ways. What the Minister has chosen to do, quite reasonably and correctly, is to pursue the best avenue designed to provide an assessment of the issues of concern, which are legitimately presented for scrutiny as every matter should be in an open and public fashion, and to put that into the public domain, with every concern addressed as speedily and thoroughly as possible.

I ask that we await the report and that when we see it, we assess it on its merits. That is what the Government will do, in an open and transparent manner. There should be no rush to judgment and less innuendo. If issues arise from the publication of the special liquidator's report when it is publicly presented to the people of Ireland and to these Houses, the Minister for Finance, as he has proven for four years, will ensure they are dealt with comprehensively and properly.

The Minister is a great defender of the realm.

The Minister, Deputy Howlin, who is leaving the Chamber, applauded what he described as the healthy scepticism of officials from the Department of Finance. That is nothing to the scepticism of the general public, as they review this debacle. If anybody imagines it has been lost on people that the Minister and the system, over a number of years, dodged and evaded questions that were asked about the IBRC generally and the Siteserv transaction in particular, they are very wrong. If the Minister or anybody else believes that the cobbled together, ham fisted internal review has been met with anything other than deep scepticism and disappointment by the general public, they are even more deluded than I might have imagined.

In setting up this review by KPMG, the Government has conceded that the process itself is flawed and compromised and that it cannot stand over its impartiality. What astonishes me in the midst of all of this controversy is that the Government appears to be prepared to do anything rather than what is necessary. What is required is a commission of inquiry. It might be legally intricate, as the Minister, Deputy Howlin, says, and it might be demanding and take some time, but it is our considered view that only a commission of inquiry can get the full facts. Only a commission of inquiry will have the necessary powers to investigate not just the Siteserv transaction but a much broader scope of transactions between IBRC and other parties.

In the appointment of Mr. Justice O'Neill, the Government concedes a direct and apparent conflict of interest. It is almost comedy to hear the Minister say that this learned person, whose integrity is beyond doubt, is put in place in case there is a conflict of interest. The real reason Mr. Justice O'Neill has been asked to take the position is that the conflict of interest is so apparent and evident. Whatever about the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, in a posture of self defence, trying to sell this approach to people, it is astonishing to hear the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, echo his words and fight so valiantly for a process that is so clearly ineffectual and compromised from the start.

People watching all of this must ask whether anything has been learned not just from the economic and consequent social catastrophe that they have endured, but also from the decade and more of tribunals where the toxic corruption at the heart of this State and the public administration was revealed in unedifying detail time and again. That toxic political culture which, regrettably, seeps into our administration is based on cosy relationships, cronyism and a deplorable sense of entitlement among a few in Irish society. Taxpayers and citizens have watched all of this for many long years. Then this issue arises. What does the Government and the Ministers, Deputies Noonan and Howlin, do, backed to the hilt by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste? They kick for touch.

I quoted the Tánaiste's words to her recently in the Chamber. She had said a number of years ago, quite correctly, that people were sick to the back teeth of the same old, same old - the same narrative, the same themes and, in many cases, the same personalities coming to notice again and again. She was right when she said that, and she is wrong to defend this approach in respect of these dealings. It is simply wrong. Defend it as the Government will, nobody is buying it. The correct and honourable thing to do is establish a commission of investigation and not mind electoral cycles. The issues, questions and dilemmas that this brings forth for us as a society, for our political culture and our public administration are far more serious and long lasting than any single electoral event.

I support the motion and I reject the Government's amendment. I deplore its strategy of kicking for touch. More to the point, the people we serve do not buy the Government's story or alibi for a minute, all the more so as water bills arrive on their mats. Who does the Government think it is fooling?

Cuirim fáilte roimh an rún atá os ár gcomhair, a thugann deis dúinn an ceist fíorthábhachtach seo a phlé. Níl dabht ar bith ná go bhfuil coiste fiosrúcháin neamhspleách, a bhfuil tacaíocht an phobail aige, ag teastáil le díriú isteach ar na saincheisteanna atá le plé ó thaobh an chaoi inar dhíol an t-iarbhanc Banc Angla-Éireannach an comhlacht Siteserv. Níl dabht ar bith i mo thuairim, agus i dtuairim mo pháirtí, nach mbeimid ábalta tacaíocht an phobail agus muinín an phobail a fháil muna mbeidh coiste fiosrúcháin neamhspleách leagtha amach. Ní thuigim cén fáth go bhfuil an Rialtas ag cur a aghaidh in éadan an cineál phróisis sin, go háirithe nuair a fhéachann muid ar na príomhcharachtair atá i gceist sa chás seo. Bhí cuid acu pléite sa Teach seo san am a chuaigh thart, nuair a ardaíodh ceisteanna faoin dóigh ina raibh siad ag idirdhealú nó ag déileáil leis an Rialtas ag an am sin. Tá a fhios againn fá dtaobh den bhinse fiosrúcháin a bhí leagtha amach mar gheall ar sin.

On 26 March 2012, ten days after the sale of Siteserv, I raised the question of that suspicious sale with the Minister for Finance. I tabled it as an oral question because I believed it needed to be discussed on the floor of the Dail. Unfortunately, as a result of the lottery system, it was not chosen as an oral question but was subsequently responded to me in written format. In the question I submitted on 26 March 2012, I asked the Minister for Finance to explain why "State owned IBRC agreed to write down the value of its loans to [Siteserv] by more than €100m whilst at the same time ordinary shareholders were paid €4.96m as part of the deal to sell the company" to Denis O'Brien. Three years and two months later, I am still waiting for my answer. The Official Report shows that I was told back than that "the Board of the bank are satisfied". I suggest it was a question of "move along, Deputy, everything is above board, nothing to look at here".

It was not mentioned in the reply to my parliamentary question that Peter Fitzgerald of IBRC and formerly of Anglo Irish Bank wrote to the Department four days later, after it sought a response to my question, to say he was going to hold off on a reply until he had read what was in the papers about the story the following day. I wish to make something clear about this aspect of the matter, which may seem tangential to the whole controversy about the sale of Siteserv. The questions I pose to the Minister, as a representative of the people and an elected Member of this Oireachtas, should be answered on the basis of the facts and not on the basis of how the media might be covering a story. It is not right to interfere and to respond based on what else has slipped out. My question was to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, and not to Peter Fitzgerald. I did not ask IBRC's opinion. I asked a Minister of our elected Government to set out what was going on. He did not give a full answer. It is hard to believe the Department had not yet expressed any concerns. It should have been fully aware of the context of my question and should have gone for a straight answer, especially in light of all the media presentation around this issue in the days running up to my tabling of the question.

That was the beginning of the story. Any bit of information that has been gleaned since then has been dragged kicking and screaming out of the Minister for Finance. We are still pushing for these answers three years and two months later because questions have been asked by me and others. I refer particularly to the diligent efforts of Deputy Catherine Murphy. It may now be some years later, but it is apparent from the Government amendment to the motion before the House that nothing has really changed. The line we are being given is still "nothing to see", more or less. It was not credible in 2012 and it is even less credible today. The attempt to brush this issue under the carpet through this investigation is a nonsense and will not satisfy the public's demand for answers.

The Government amendment contains a telling line that states "given the recent public concerns and questions raised regarding the Siteserv transaction, the Minister for Finance has directed the special liquidators of IBRC to review and report on all transactions" and so on. In other words, the Government is telling us it has to be seen to be doing something because the people are angry. An actual desire to get to the truth for the sake of the truth is missing here. If a freedom of information request had not revealed the concerns of the Department, we would not be here and those concerns would be unknown. The Minister knew about these concerns for many years, but decided to do nothing about them. He held a couple of meetings, but he did not think it warranted an investigation or an inquiry. He let it slip on by in the hope that nobody would notice or ever find out that his Department, in addition to Opposition Deputies and other members of the public, had raised serious issues about this sale.

The proposed investigation and the amendment tabled by the Government are about being seen to do something. They are certainly not about doing something. How will the type of investigation that the Government has announced determine the identity of those shareholders who bought shares during the crucial period? How will it get behind the holding companies or the front companies that bought the shares on behalf of the individuals? How will the investigation have the confidence of the public, given that it is being carried out by individuals and partners from KPMG? How will that be possible, in light of KPMG's own role in the sales process, KPMG's history in relation to other people who advised on the sale and the history of people who are involved in Siteserv with KPMG?

We have to bear in mind that the terms of reference established by the Government go up to the date of the liquidation of IBRC, to the point where the special liquidator was appointed. The special liquidator has liquidated many companies and has vast experience of doing so over many years. We need to be honest here. Questions have been raised in the public domain about some of the sales that have been facilitated by the special liquidator. They have been reported in the media, but they are outside the terms of reference. The sale of the Racing Post is one such example. It was sold to the person who had the debt. The Racing Post had debts of approximately €180 million. It was sold to the owners of the Racing Post. A UK publisher, Tim Hailstone, told The Times of London-----

Sorry, Deputy, you cannot name people in the House.

This is on the public record.

He is at it there the whole night.

It is on the record.

No, you cannot suggest wrongdoing in this House without any evidence whatsoever.

It is in the public domain.

Let us stick to the motion before the House.

I have made no accusation in relation to Tim Hailstone.

You are naming people in the House who are not here to defend themselves.

The Deputy has made an accusation about KPMG.

No, I have not. With respect, I have said the liquidator has vast experience of liquidating companies. I have said we have to be mindful that issues have been raised in the public domain regarding some of the liquidation or sales process. I am going to refer to the point that Tim Hailstone made. I am not making any accusation. He told The Times of London that he was withdrawing from the process because "there was only a very limited amount of information being provided about the business". It is a case of déjà vu. These issues will not be investigated by this review, or non-commission of investigation, because its terms of reference do not extend beyond the point of the liquidation of IBRC. I have not made any suggestions. I am making a point about public confidence in the investigation of these sales by KPMG-----

It is the same thing.

-----at a time when there are allegations or commentary in the public domain-----

Whose allegations?

-----about some of the sales. The motion before the House seeks the establishment of a commission of investigation so we can get to the unblemished truth about all of this. It is most crucial that any investigation should have the confidence of the public. I would have thought the Labour Party would have taken some interest in these important questions, but obviously it is quiet in this regard. The line has changed slightly, to be fair. It has gone from "nothing to see here" to "very little to see here, and we are not going to work too hard to find out anyway". The only way to retain public confidence while getting to the truth is to establish a commission of investigation.

That is the way the Government should proceed in this matter.

The scandal around Siteserv encapsulates everything that is wrong about the water charges, austerity and the crony capitalism that dominates in this country. As always there are winners and losers. The winners are Denis O’Brien, who benefits from a massive write-off worth €100 million; the shareholders in a bankrupt company, who benefit to the tune of €5 million; and KPMG and Davy Stockbrokers, the advisers on the sale. KPMG made at least €70 million in fees relating to the liquidation of IBRC. The losers are the taxpayers who paid for this write-off, those faced with water charge bills who cannot afford to pay them and those who went to prison. Four people went to prison for breaching an injunction granted to Denis O’Brien’s private company, one of whom is in the Gallery, for standing up to the installation of these water meters and charges. At the centre of the story is the relationship between big business, Fine Gael and the media at the heart of which is Denis O’Brien whose wealth has doubled in the past six years. While austerity has been heaped upon austerity, upon the mass of ordinary people, one man has managed to more than double his wealth. The appointment of KPMG is so blatant that Alan Dukes, who told the Mahon tribunal he had no doubt about the integrity of the process for the mobile phone licence, said the appointment of KPMG was amusing. Transparency International has said KPMG should be taken off the investigation. Did the Government seriously think anyone would be satisfied by the independence of an investigation carried out by KPMG when it was involved in the sale and there was a whole heap of veteran KPMG people on the board and in relation to a bank for which it acted as liquidator and previously as auditor? Either the Government is stupid or there is something more substantial to hide here.

Is there an active misdirection going on here? I am all for an investigation into all the write-offs but we have to follow the money trail in respect of Siteserv all the way.

I welcome the opportunity to speak and to support this motion on the sale of Siteserv by IBRC. The sale of Siteserv to a Denis O’Brien-linked company for a knock-down price of €45 million, with a payment of €5 million to shareholders, is a case study in how this Government has lined the pockets of the rich and powerful elite while making low and middle income families pay for a recession they had no hand, act or part in creating. This is but one example of the pay-off for the insider golden circle, the banks, well-connected business people, finance houses, valuers, law firms, auctioneers, accountants and consultants of all kinds. The same names and firms arise in respect of the collapse of the economy and in this case. These are the people and firms who collapsed the economy and are being rewarded by the Government. They have increased their incomes and their assets during the course of this recession, which has been confirmed by the Central Statistics Office, CSO.

The appointment of KPMG, a company with a clear conflict of interest, to review the Siteserv deal is a further slap in the face for low and middle income families who have been crucified by austerity. Such a review can only be described as a sham and an insult. We should compare what has happened to all these individuals and companies with what has happened to low and middle income families if only in one area, housing. A total of 25,000 families face eviction; there are unprecedented levels of homelessness; 90,000 families are on local authority housing lists; 300,000 mortgage holders are being ripped off by the banks charging twice the European Central Bank, ECB, standard variable rate of interest, effectively paying a second bailout to the banks. This is an absolutely shameful incident. We need an investigation and a commission of inquiry, not just for this Siteserv deal but for the IBRC in general, for NAMA and for AIB and Permanent TSB. I support the motion.

The revelations to date regarding Siteserv have only further bewildered the already bothered Irish public about the ancillary activities of Irish Water and the prolonged saga of unanswered questions. Many contradictions have been revealed in the record of Siteserv. It is ironic in the extreme that KPMG is the company appointed by the Government to oversee the comprehensive inquiry which this demands when it is evident for a plethora of reasons that it would be appropriate for an independent body to carry out this inquiry. It is imperative that it is done in an unbiased, fair and equitable manner.

KPMG corporate experts were first into the company to prepare it for sale and a sub-committee in Siteserv was also assembled to work on the sale. To further compound the intrigue the committee was chaired by a Mr. Robert Dix, a former partner in KPMG. Mr. Walter Hobbs was also a member. He was a corporate finance adviser-----

The Deputy had better not name people. It implies wrongdoing which we cannot do when there is no evidence.

They are all in the public domain.

The second individual was appointed by IBRC to represent its interest. The meetings to discuss how to proceed with the sale were held in the Dublin office of KPMG and removed from Siteserv’s office so that news of a possible sale did not leak to staff or competitors. In the subsequent sale the Rutland company offered €10 million more than the O’Brien bid of €45 million, amongst a range of other bids. Mr. Dix-----

The Deputy should please refrain from naming people in this Chamber who have not been found guilty of anything. It is a long-established principle in this House.

-----chaired the sub-committee. Siteserv external advisers recommended accepting the O’Brien bid. This went to the board of IBRC who agreed in double quick time that shareholders who had voluntarily backed the debt-ridden company got a payout of €5 million. The taxpayer got €40 million and a bill for €100 million when the remaining borrowings of Siteserv were written off.

I commend Deputy Catherine Murphy for the work she has done to unveil all this.

I thank and commend my Independent colleague, Deputy Catherine Murphy, for her excellent work on this issue and for some of the questions she has raised in the Dáil over the past year or so. People are getting sick and tired of being fobbed off. We need to get to the heart of the matter. We were promised a new type of government, openness and transparency, and here we go again. All that people want are the facts and the truth. Maybe there is nothing in it. I have a completely open mind on this issue. I am not into the blame game. People have genuine concerns and the only way to resolve this matter is through a full independent commission of inquiry.

The senior officials in the Department of Finance have raised concerns about the other IBRC sales. In 2012 Siteserv owed €150 million to IBRC. In March 2012 IBRC sold Siteserv for €45 million. External trade buyers were excluded. Some bidders were also excluded. Siteserv shareholders received €5 million at the time of the sale. There are genuine concerns about the sale of Siteserv for €45 million by IBRC. I support the call for a commission of inquiry to be set up to examine the circumstances surrounding and leading to the sale of Siteserv in March 2012, and other company sell-offs by IBRC, so that the interests of the Irish people can be fully protected in a transparent way. We need to deal with conflict of interest matters as the Irish people never again want to see this country ripped off by a group of insiders or cheesy operators.

I urge all Deputies to support this very important motion calling for a commission of inquiry. I commend Deputy Catherine Murphy on her work on this issue. It shows the constant need for independent voices in this House who are not afraid to ask the hard questions.

Public trust in the political system in Ireland has collapsed and tonight's debate is a perfect example of why that has happened. The only reason an investigation is being conducted into the sale of IBRC assets is because of the work of Deputy Catherine Murphy. The motion before the House concerns who should conduct that investigation but serious questions of political governance must also be investigated. Why did the Minister make no mention of his Department's concerns in response to numerous parliamentary questions from Deputy Catherine Murphy? Did the Minister inform the Taoiseach, the Economic Management Council or the Cabinet about his Department's concerns?

If departmental concerns about this serious issue have been kept secret, what else has been kept secret? What other parliamentary questions have been avoided or fudged by the Minister? If these concerns are worthy of investigation, and they are, why is it only being done now, years after the Department raised its concerns? I will tell the House why. It is because the Minister's cover-up has failed and he has nowhere left to hide.

The Deputy cannot make an allegation of a cover-up. I ask him to withdraw it.

I will withdraw the allegation of a cover-up - heaven forbid.

We have parliamentary procedure here. The Deputy cannot abuse privilege.

The motion before the House condemns the appointment of KPMG to undertake a review of transactions in IBRC as it advised Siteserv during the sale. The Government amendment acknowledges that and states that the sale process was run by Siteserv along with its advisers KPMG Corporate Finance and Davy Corporate Finance and calls on Dáil Éireann to support the review, which KPMG has been directed to conduct. It is extraordinary stuff. In essence, KPMG is being by the Government to investigate itself. This is not a perceived conflict of interest. It is the definition of a conflict of interest. The Government should ask KPMG to step down and appoint a person or organisation who was not involved in the deals under investigation. Should the Government refuse to do so, KPMG should take it upon itself to step back from this situation.

The context for this debate is what happened to ordinary citizens in this country in 2012. When some of us on this side of the House screamed in opposition to the vicious cuts imposed, particularly in budget 2012, that hit the most vulnerable people and when many people in this House asked in the same year whether the unsustainable debts of tens of thousands of ordinary mortgage holders who were just trying to keep a roof over the heads could be written down, we were told this could not happen under any circumstances because there would be moral hazard associated with doing it. At the same time that ordinary people were being told that they could not have their debts written down by the banks we had bailed out, those same banks were writing down the debts of companies to the tune of hundreds of millions of euro and to the benefit of some of the richest people in the country, including the richest person in the country. There were three or four different deals from which he benefited to the tune of hundreds of millions of euros in writedowns paid for by the taxpayer.

Concerns expressed by the Minister's Department on foot of questions raised in this House at that time were simply covered up in the sense that the Minister did not bring those concerns to the attention of this House even though his own Department was saying it had concerns. Why has it taken years to drag this out of him instead of a Government that is supposed to be in favour of transparency coming before the Dáil and saying it had big concerns about what was happening with these writedowns? Why did the Minister not do that? This raises suspicions from the word go. When the Minister was finally forced to accept that there was something to look into, he got the insiders to do it. These are the people who were involved in this dubious sale - KPMG. It is unbelievable. He is asking people to investigate themselves. How can he seriously expect that to be a serious investigation?

Government Deputies piled into the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform today to oppose a motion I put down that stated that the committee should ask some of the key players to come before it to answer questions. The Government does not want that either. Instead, it wants the insiders involved in the deal to investigate themselves. This is a joke and stinks to high heaven.

That is a lie.

I am now calling on Deputy-----

I am not. Government Deputies piled in and then-----

(Interruptions).

I ask Deputy Twomey to remain quiet. Deputy Twomey can reply when he is speaking.

He cannot even tell the truth.

Is it not unparliamentary to accuse people of lying?

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:

"notes that:

— following an independent review of the strategic options for the business and the level of debt in the company, the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC, credit committee, in June 2011, approved for Siteserv to commence an orderly process to sell itself;

— IBRC was a creditor of Siteserv and had an interest in the maximisation of proceeds from the sale of the company to maximise the recovery on the company's debts to IBRC;

— the sale process was run by Siteserv along with their advisers, KPMG Corporate Finance and Davy Corporate Finance. IBRC appointed Walter Hobbs as its observer to the sale process. The Department of Finance was not involved in the sale process or any of the decisions taken during the sale process;

— on 15 March 2012, the IBRC board met and approved the sale of Siteserv to Millington;

— on 16 March 2012, given that Siteserv was a member of the enterprise securities market, the proposed disposal of the Siteserv business to Millington was announced to the Irish Stock Exchange;

— Department of Finance officials were not made aware of the details of the Siteserv transaction during their monthly meetings with IBRC management in advance of the decision of the board to approve the sale;

— following the introduction of the revised relationship framework, in April 2012, the board of IBRC commenced forwarding board packs and minutes of board meetings. The April 2012 pack contained the minutes of the meetings held on 20 March, 21 March, 28 March and 13 April 2012. However, there were no minutes included in the April pack of the meeting of 15 March 2012, which the Department of Finance subsequently learned, had occurred and had approved the sale of Siteserv;

— the first record relating to the sale of Siteserv which the Department of Finance received is dated 23 March 2012, and was an e-mail from a member of the public relating to media reports around the sale of Siteserv;

— following a review of the transaction, the Department of Finance had concerns about certain aspects of the transaction;

— the Minister for Finance met with the CEO and chairman of IBRC in July 2012 to discuss, among other matters, the concerns raised following the review of the Siteserv transaction. At this meeting, the chairman provided the Minister for Finance with strong assurances that the transaction, including those aspects of the transaction with which there were concerns, had been thoroughly assessed by the IBRC board and that they were satisfied that the transaction was managed in the best manner possible to achieve the best result for the State;

— the IBRC board had a fiduciary responsibility to the bank's stakeholders and so, in light of this legal responsibility, the chairman and the board would have considered and provided such assurances following serious and careful consideration; and

— the Minister for Finance accepted the assurances from the chairman of IBRC that the transaction had been thoroughly assessed by the IBRC board and that they were satisfied that the transaction was managed in the best manner possible to achieve the best result for the State;

acknowledges that:

— the Department of Finance had no role in the sale of Siteserv to Millington or any decisions taken during the sale process and they only became aware of the transaction after the proposed sale of the company was announced to the Irish Stock Exchange;

— given the recent public concerns and questions raised regarding the Siteserv transaction, the Minister for Finance has directed the special liquidators of IBRC to review and report on all transactions, activities and management decisions which occurred between the date of nationalisation and the date that IBRC entered into liquidation, that resulted in a capital loss to IBRC of at least €10 million; and

— the Minister for Finance has also directed the appointment of retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, to monitor any actual or perceived conflicts of interests that may arise as part of this review; and

calls on Dáil Éireann to support the review which the special liquidators have been directed to conduct and which retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, will monitor for any actual or perceived conflicts of interest."

The next speakers are Deputies Patrick O'Donovan, Liam Twomey, Joe Costello, Regina Doherty, Tom Barry, Martin Heydon, Brian Walsh and Michelle Mulherin. Deputy O'Donovan is not here so the next speaker is Deputy Twomey.

In respect of the charge made by Deputy Boyd Barrett against the Government, it was explained quite clearly to him and I will not repeat it in the Chamber because the committee was discussing a matter in private session. He knows exactly what the reasons were and that they had nothing to do with Government Deputies piling in.

I do not accept the reasons and the Government Deputies did pile in.

If we use the Chamber to just throw wild accusations around, we will have a very poor quality debate in this House. If I came in and started accusing members of Sinn Féin of being involved in things because they happened to be associated with other things, it would not go down too well either.

It happens regularly. There is nothing new there. Apparently, it is not a breach of privilege either.

No, because we have not accused it of anything even though it is always taking exception to something so perhaps I have hit a raw nerve.

Opposition Deputies are not clear what they want from this debate. They said today that they are looking for an inquiry to be carried out by the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform.

I did not say "inquiry".

They want an inquiry carried out by the committee over the next number of weeks. We now listen to them saying that they want a full inquiry, which they know will take at least two or three years. They should make up their minds if they are really serious about telling the people of Ireland that they offer credible opposition. What in God's name do they want to offer them because right now that stands for nothing? It just stands for populist, ranting one-liners that possibly work for them but they certainly do not work when it comes to delivering a proper sense of governance for this country. We can decide that we do not want a rapid inquiry that will deliver by the end of August and that we want an inquiry that will go on for over three or four years, like those we were used to in years gone by, and that would probably report back to some Dáil in the future when we are all long retired.

That is not what a commission of inquiry is about. It is short and snappy.

Opposition Deputies need to make up their minds. The way a few parliamentary questions in 2012 are forgotten by the Opposition and the sudden righteous indignation in this Chamber undermines how we should go about our work. If there are serious issues here, we need to have a quick inquiry to look into them and, if necessary, move on to a much deeper inquiry. To stand up here and just throw out accusations against people undermines the entire process. Does Deputy Paul Murphy think that every official in the Department of Finance is a crook?

Just the ones who deal with IBRC? It is so easy to throw it out. Opposition Deputies do not know what they want. They do not know what type of inquiry they want. Their accusations are shocking. It is shocking how easily they accuse people and throw their names out with no regard. Deputy Finian McGrath talks about trust in the system. Does he seriously think that trust in the system results from throwing around accusations in the Chamber knowing he is protected by parliamentary privilege?

I did not throw out any accusations.

It is really shocking. I have listened to this debate.

The Deputy is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Obviously, I am clearly hitting a raw nerve with somebody here and they realise that the quality of the debate is no better than the 24-hour news cycle.

I hope we get more out of it. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, has reversed all of the changes made by the Fianna Fáil-led Administration to the Freedom of Information Act. At one point nobody could get any information under FOI about any State organisation because it did not suit the previous Government. It is because of the changes made by the Minister, Deputy Howlin, that all of this information is in the public domain and senior officials have been appointed to the organisations concerned to review what went on.

Deputy Boyd Barrett simply accuses people of wrongdoing and has no real interest in finding out the facts. He does not, in my view, really care what type of inquiry takes place. He believes he has done what he considers to be his duty to the people who elected him. We on this side of the House expect an awful lot more. We expect more from our Ministers and will expect more from the inquiry to be undertaken over the next number of months. The finance committee will support him in his proposal for a further inquiry if it believes that is what this country needs. I am certainly not going to hang anybody on the basis of the type of wild accusation that has been made here.

I welcome this debate and compliment Deputy Catherine Murphy on her diligence in pursuing this matter over a considerable period. I also compliment the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, on the speed within which he put in place the relationship framework. As soon as the matter came to his attention, he revised the framework to ensure he and the Departments of Finance and Justice and Equality would be consulted in relation to the future disposal of assets. It is worth noting that the Minister did so within two weeks of the sale of Siteserv.

It is a pity that Fianna Fáil did not put in place a mechanism to ensure the Minister and Department of Finance would be consulted about the sale of substantial assets. Had it done so, all of the matters now arising would have come to the attention of the Department at an earlier stage and would have been addressed. It is important to recognise that the chairman of the board and the board, which had fiduciary responsibility in this regard, were appointed not by this Government but by the Fianna Fáil-led Administration. There is no record of anything wrong having occurred in this case. At the same time, serious questions and issues remain to be addressed and reviewed. I am delighted that a process has been put in place to review why a €150 million asset was disposed of for €45 million, which is a two third write-down, and the reason the minutes of only three of the four meetings held in March, excluding those of the meeting on 15 March, were not supplied to the Minister in April. It is incredible that should have happened. There are questions to be answered in regard to why and how this happened.

On the appointment of the special liquidator, KPMG, while I would have preferred if an alternative company had been appointed I accept that one of the benefits of appointing KPMG is its ready access to the documentation and records which will enable this matter to be dealt with rapidly, thus allowing the Minister to set the month of August as the timeframe within which the review is to be completed and a report made available. I am reassured by the appointment of former High Court judge, Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, who is of unblemished character. However, as I said earlier I would have preferred that the review not be undertaken by the company engaged as the special liquidator for IBRC.

Regardless of what is proposed in this motion or what anybody says it would not have been possible for a commission of inquiry to report within 12 months, because as a commission of inquiry allows for lawyers to act on behalf of parties under investigation or likely to be questioned an inquiry could be delayed for a considerable period. While a commission of inquiry is laudable the proposed mechanism is the only one that ensures completion of a review and report prior to the next election. The Minister, Deputy Noonan, should be complimented on ensuring that this is the case. If we had accepted the recommendation from Deputy Fleming in relation to the establishment of a commission of inquiry there would have been no chance of us having a report until after the next election.

The Minister has indicated that he will refer the report to the relevant committees of the House. The Taoiseach previously indicated that his preference is that the matter be looked into by the Committee of Public Accounts. However, that has proven difficult. I believe it would be appropriate for the report to be referred to the Committee of Public Accounts because it has a special role in regard to the spending of taxpayers' money and any misuse or abuse in that regard is a matter of considerable relevance to it.

The motion on today's Order Paper for this evening's Private Members' business is interesting. The so-called "concerns" and "dissatisfaction" of Fianna Fáil, as set out in the motion, in regard to trust between IBRC and this Government can only be described as ironic and somewhat sardonic.

I will stand in this Parliament and on the streets of my constituency any day of the week and say that this Government and the Department of Finance had no role in the sale of Siteserv to Millington. The facts bear this out. No amount of mud slinging can change those facts. I do not say this in defence of the Government or the Department of Finance, but rather to state the facts which are presented to us with regard to the dysfunctional relationships that existed between the Fianna Fáil-led Government and former Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, including a culture of turning a blind eye and a widespread disregard of procedures. I do not need to remind anybody that Fianna Fáil pumped €34 billion of taxpayers' money into Anglo Irish Bank, which money we will never get back.

At the point in time when the IBRC board approved the sale of Siteserv there was no requirement on it or its management to consult with the Minister for Finance and so they did not. One might ask why this was the case. It was because the relationship framework put in place by the Fianna Fáil-led Government did not require the management of IBRC to negotiate or report back to Government. It is highly amusing to hear Fianna Fáil lecture this Government and the Department of Finance from across the Chamber when it was Fianna Fáil that was front and centre of a relationship framework that gave free reign to the banks who played a central role in our economic crash. It is Fianna Fáil who gifted the €34 billion of taxpayers' money to Anglo Irish Bank in "the good times" and is now trying to lecture this Government, which has reduced the borrowing requirement of the people of this country by €50 billion over the next decade, including €10 million in cash savings.

Fianna Fáil is the symbol of a culture of brushing under the carpet the considerable and real issues caused by the banks in the name of short term large profits at the cost of our economy, confidence in our political system and most definitely our reputation on the international markets. It is Fianna Fáil's response to the banking crisis that brought this country to the cusp of bankruptcy.

What way did the Deputy's party vote?

The sheer irony of its Private Members' motion is not lost on anybody inside or outside this House.

It was Fianna Fáil's response to the banking crisis that saw families and businesses across Ireland rather than the bank's creditors bear massive losses. That was the Fianna Fáil way. It is because of these Fianna Fáil responses that the cost of private failures were shoved onto the taxpayer, which later became a condition of the 2010 bailout programme into which it, while sleep-walking, walked this country.

This Government has always prioritised reducing the cost to the taxpayer of Fianna Fáil's failed bailout. In 2012, the Minister for Finance replaced Fianna Fáil's relationship framework, which is now considerably more intrusive, to allow for complete transparency. It is this transparency that would have avoided the billions lost to our economy at the hands of the Fianna Fáil-led Government. Let that not be forgotten. Nobody in this House has forgotten nor has anyone outside it.

This Private Members' motion comes with comes with an unpleasant odour of irony by Fianna Fáil, given its track record of dealing with our banks. We all know that this motion is nothing more than a cheap attempt by Fianna Fáil to gain some or any political momentum, given its continuous becalming in the polls. What Fianna Fáil members do not realise is that the electorate is far more sophisticated today than was the case prior to the crash in 2010 and 2011. The constant reminder of that legacy for this generation sits in the corner of all our wage slips, the dreaded USC, a constant reminder of the taxpayers' money that Fianna Fáil robbed from every single working person in this country in order to pay for the bailout which Fianna Fáil said at the time would be the smallest, cheapest bailout. That seriously backfired.

In 2011 this Government pledged to wind down Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society. This is currently under way in a way which will strengthen our economy and safeguard us from any future crises. I support fully the Minister for Finance's appointment of the IBRC special liquidators to review and report on all transactions, activities and management decisions in a very timely manner. I further welcome his appointment of retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice O'Neill, to monitor the review. I refer to the person whom Fianna Fáil chose to put in charge of the winding down of IBRC. Given his legacy of putting the country before his party and because of his integrity, there will be nothing to see when this report is issued in August.

I have listened to speakers in this debate and I am astonished at the level of detachment on the part of Fianna Fáil. The Minister met with IBRC and was assured that under the old framework put in place by Fianna Fáil, there was no monetary threshold for any sale of assets. IBRC was mandated to effect an orderly running down of the old Anglo Irish Bank. Wild accusations are being heard tonight because sufficient value was not received. What do Members opposite think is the job of a liquidator? Liquidators wind down institutions usually for less than the value one would expect. People are talking about foreign investors but I do not see any of them jumping up and down. When the Minister saw that Siteserv was being sold, he decided to monitor the situation and to look for a new relationship framework because he wanted to be part of the decision-making. It is a huge improvement and I cannot see why the Minister's anxiety to ensure everything is done properly is regarded as a fault.

It is not right to allow a situation where the Minister would not be briefed. IBRC has fiduciary responsibility and must ensure that its actions are correct and are within the law.

I refer to one of the first Bills enacted by this Government, the white collar crime Bill, which was put in place because of the mess of Anglo Irish Bank. People were trying to dig through the mess created by Fianna Fáil.

The Minister has appointed special liquidators and is confident that they will get to the bottom of the issue. Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill is presiding over any conflict of interest that may occur. People will have faith in the fact that this review will be credible and will not cost the country a fortune. However, when that review is completed, the Minister has not ruled out further action, which leaves the door open. We should await the review and judge it on its merits. The Minister has said that this review will be presented to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, of which I am a member. I am sure we will all have something to say about it.

I advise Members to await the review and the facts of the matter before making charges and wild accusations, as have been made tonight and which are unbelievable. Accusation after accusation has been thrown at the Government in order to make political gain. It cheapens this House and most certainly does not help. People are insinuating that something wrong was done when they have no proof to back it up.

When the Fianna Fáil Government shut down the sugar industry, not one Fianna Fáil member was shouting for a review in that case or asking what went wrong. The closure broke the backbone of where I live. Fianna Fáil is shouting about foreign investors. Why did it not support the people who were making a living in an indigenous industry that it ruined and got rid of?

I refer to the allegations that KPMG cannot do its job and such allegations are a slander on Mr. Justice O'Neill who was appointed to ensure that everyone's role is respected. The House is being used as a platform for allegations. It is a case of let us throw enough mud and see how much sticks. Fianna Fáil is mixing up the liquidation process with mortgage evaluation. I ask the Members opposite to remember we have a terrible mortgage crisis because Fianna Fáil was in government for a long time. I know the party has apologised. However, it should not mix up trying to deal with mortgages with the liquidation process because they are two separate items.

I look forward to this review being presented to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. At that time, I look forward to us discussing it once more. If all the facts are presented and if the Minister's assurances are correct, there will be no more to say on the matter. Until then I will reserve my judgment.

I will summarise tonight's Private Members' motion. The Fianna Fáil motion states that there are questions about how IBRC handled the sale of Siteserv and other sell-offs. Fianna Fáil failed to mention that the sale of Siteserv was carried out under a relationship framework which its Government introduced and set up. Fianna Fáil is saying that the framework it set up for how IBRC and the Department of Finance would engage was, in some way, deficient. The Fianna Fáil motion relates to a breakdown of trust between Department officials and those on the board of IBRC. Surely a decent framework agreement, if properly established, would transcend any personalities involved.

The summary of the Government counter-motion is that the Department had no role in the sale of Siteserv under the old Fianna Fáil framework. This Government introduced a new, more robust framework to replace that of the previous Government. Given the public concerns, the Minister, Deputy Noonan, has directed the special liquidators of IBRC to review all transactions, activities and management decisions which occurred from nationalisation to liquidation, to be monitored by retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice O'Neill, in case of any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

In the context of this debate, it is important to remember that the previous Fianna Fáil Government pumped €34 billion of taxpayers' money into Anglo Irish Bank which we, the taxpayers, will never see again.

This is the Fianna Fáil Government whose then leader and Taoiseach in 2008 played golf alongside FitzPatrick, the head of Anglo Irish Bank, when rumours of the bank's demise were circulating. He apparently never asked, "How's business, how are things going?" When word of this golf game became known, there was a suggestion that perhaps the then Taoiseach was aware of the situation but he stuck his head in the sand. However, it seems it was a far greater thing for us to be assured that the Taoiseach never asked that question when concerns were rife.

What would Fine Gael have done if it had been in power on the night of the bank guarantee? As a public representative, I would have hated to have been in that room and having to make any decisions with a gun to the head, as was the case, which would have such implications for the future of the country. However, I am damn sure that if Fine Gael had been in power then that night would have never come because we would not have had our heads in the sand like the previous Administration. The period of light touch regulation and lazy governance cost this country's citizens a huge amount and much more than just in monetary terms. We have since seen the prudent management of our State's finances by the Minister, Deputy Noonan, and the Minister, Deputy Howlin, helped in no small way by the perseverance of the public. Already this Government has succeeded in reducing the interest rate on the European loans provided under the bailout programme. It has secured an agreement to extend the maturity of European loans, replacing the promissory notes with long-dated government bonds and replacing over €18 billion of IMF loans with cheaper market-based funding.

This Government reduced borrowing requirements by €50 billion over a decade, including €10 billion in cash savings. IBRC, the wind-down vehicle of Anglo Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society, was liquidated as part of the deal to restructure the onerous promissory notes. We do not hear talk of promissory notes any more because they have been taken out of the vocabulary. We inherited those promissory notes from the previous Government. Restructuring led to stabilisation of public finances and a clean exit from the bailout without a precautionary credit line.

Those in Fianna Fáil have some neck to criticise one of the many messes they left this Government to clean up under their framework structure. The public can rest assured and can have full confidence in this Government when it comes to handling matters of a financial nature where the State is concerned. Our track record in restoring the public finances in the past four years is proof of that.

If Fianna Fáil did one good thing in the past it was the appointment of a man of integrity and a fantastic track record of service to this State to oversee IBRC and the wind-down of the bank. I have no doubt that Alan Dukes and the board of IBRC carried out their fiduciary duties with great integrity and I expect there to be nothing to see in this matter.

Fianna Fáil wants a full inquiry that would take years and cost the taxpayer far more. This Fine Gael Government has basically offered a quick investigation that will report by August. We know how much previous inquiries initiated by previous Fianna Fáil Governments have cost and how long they have gone on for. The one thing we know from this motion is that if Fianna Fáil got back into power we could expect more of the same in future.

Deputy Brian Walsh has three minutes.

I thought I had a little more than three minutes. Anyway, it has been difficult to listen to Deputy Micheál Martin and his colleagues in Fianna Fáil pontificate and criticise us this evening. Let us be clear. The only reason we are debating this issue is because the Minister changed the relationship framework put in place by Fianna Fáil. Under the Fianna Fáil-negotiated relationship framework there was no requirement for the board of IBRC to consult the Department of Finance or the Minister and it was particularly difficult for the Department to investigate any transactions. Let us make no mistake about it. We would not be in the House debating this issue tonight had the Minister not strengthened the relationship framework, since this allowed him to examine these issues. He went a step further and decided to avail of the new relationship framework to investigate retrospectively the decision of the board of IBRC, a board appointed by the Fianna Fáil Cabinet at the time, including Deputy Micheál Martin and Brian Cowen. The criticism of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, that I have listened to tonight is entirely unjustified, unwarranted and unfair.

Reference has been made tonight by members of Fianna Fáil to the €105 million of losses on this particular transaction. It is true that €105 million is a considerable amount of money, but there was no mention of the fact that this was €105 million of €34 billion lost by Anglo Irish Bank or IBRC during Fianna Fáil's reign of office and under the catastrophic mismanagement of the economy that the Fianna Fáil Government oversaw.

Do they not realise the commercial reality of the case? The fact is that a significant number of the losses in banks were created because the banks decided to dispose of assets at a figure far below the value of the loan. That is what has created the losses and that is why Fianna Fáil had to introduce the bank guarantee and create the bad bank and NAMA. It was to crystallise the losses in the Irish banks.

Some of these Members came to the House to speak on a Private Members' motion on mortgage arrears last week. They were critical of the Government, suggesting that it was not forcing the banks to write off mortgage debt for individuals caught in the spiral of rising house prices, and rightly so. They were right to ask and force the banks to do that. However, when the same principle is applied to commercial entities, as in this case, they are critical of the Government.

I thought I had more time. Anyway, the criticism of the Minister in the debate tonight is very unfair. He acted prudently when he strengthened the relationship framework. As I said earlier, the only reason we are in the House discussing this matter is because he strengthened the relationship framework. That allowed departmental officials and the Minister's office to investigate these transactions.

I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly on this matter. Like the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Michael Kitt, I was in the House in 2008 when the infamous night of the bank guarantee came to pass. I recall how we were all overwhelmed with shock and, to a certain degree, panic. None the less we tried to salvage what was a disastrous position. It is ironic that in another part of this House there is an ongoing inquiry into the banking crisis, a proposal regarded cynically by some people opposite when it was established. However, it has proven to be very effective and it is to the credit of all members of that committee that it is carrying out its functions so diligently. Following the bank guarantee we saw the establishment of IBRC and then €34 billion was pumped in. The obligation on IBRC was to redeem as much of that money as possible in the interests of the taxpayer.

The chain of events is well documented. When concerns were presented in 2012 about the sale of the Siteserv, the responsible civil servants could have done what civil servants and Ministers are sometimes accused of doing, that is to say, they could have said the relationship was already set up and there was nothing they could do about it. Instead, the Minister and his Department officials acted. It would be interesting to know whether, in respect of the relationship arrangements being set up in July 2009, senior officials in the Department of Finance were given any opportunity to express a point of view. It would seem they were told that it was being done in a given way, although I have no proof of that. I can understand that to a certain degree the rationale was to keep at arm's length the workings of IBRC from any political interference from any Minister of the day, and for good reason. Instead, the Minister and his senior officials took an active and concerned interest in what went on. It was sometimes heated. On foot of a review in June 2012 they got assurances from the then chief executive and chairman, who had a fiduciary responsibilities and had to take those responsibilities seriously.

We are now moving on to what is probably going to be a quick and efficient method of trawling through the records. This will be overseen by a reputable former member of the Bench. If anything comes out of that then let us have a full inquiry, but what is the point in kicking something into an inquiry that will have no result until this time next year, or perhaps beyond, and at a considerable cost, when the facts are clear? Any facts or concerns raised were presented or divulged by the Minister and his officials.

Deputy Michael Kitt is next. The Deputy has five minutes and is sharing time with Deputies Keaveney, Catherine Murphy and Charlie McConalogue.

I welcome the opportunity to speak. I commend Deputy Sean Fleming on proposing this motion and calling for an independent commission of inquiry to examine the circumstances surrounding the sale of Siteserv and other companies by IBRC.

I have listened to some Government Deputies. I remind them that when public meetings are taking place throughout my constituency, whether the issue is crime, housing, agriculture, education or health issues, people are raising questions about the shortage of money for various projects. People are beginning ask about the taxpayers' loss of €105 million on account of Siteserv.

The bank guarantee has been mentioned. However, if I were to tell people at these meetings that the problem was the relationship framework or that the Minister was going to change the relationship framework I would be laughed out of court. I imagine this is the reason Government Deputies do not refer to the relationship framework when they attend public meetings.

I will set out an example. Last night I attended a meeting with my colleagues in east Galway in respect of a proposal for a new primary school in County Galway, a school first sought over 15 years ago. It has been on the list for construction twice and has been twice taken off the list, something that might merit an investigation on its own. People raised the issue of funding, because funding is needed. Unfortunately, however, the taxpayer must fork out money in respect of Siteserv. The fact is that in 2012 Siteserv owed €150 million to IBRC and, in the same year, IBRC sold Siteserv for €45 million.

As our motion states, some bidders and external trade buyers were excluded from the sale. Of course, the major concern among many people is the fact that Siteserv shareholders received €5 million at the time of the sale. We need to have a fully independent commission to examine the circumstances surrounding the sale of Siteserv and other company sell-offs by IBRC to ensure the interests of the taxpayer can be fully protected in a transparent way.

The Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton, said, "I want to see all of the relevant information made available and published." I wonder if other members of the Cabinet share the Tánaiste's views and whether all of the various authorities agree with her, because that certainly does not seem to be the case. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister, Deputy Noonan, in a parliamentary question, whether he was aware that share acquisitions may have arisen as a result of privileged information in regard to the sale and what the Irish Stock Exchange had done by way of investigation. The reply, I understand, was that the Department does not have a role in investigating allegations of insider trading. Therefore, we see both the Minister and the Central Bank saying it is a matter for the regulator of the market - in other words, the Irish Stock Exchange - yet we do not really get a reply. I was interested in The Sunday Times report in which the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement was asked if it had ever investigated allegations of insider dealing at Siteserv. The answer was that it was not policy to comment. Again, there is no reply. Given the controversy - the shareholders getting a €5 million payout and the taxpayer taking a €105 million loss - there is a clear public interest argument as to whether the share trading was ever the subject of an investigation.

This is why we need a full investigation. If we are to have a review, then, as most commentators have said, it is not appropriate for KPMG to carry out the investigation, as this company was one of the financial advisers to Siteserv when it was sold for €45 million in April 2012. Surely the purpose of the review should be to restore confidence in the manner in which deals involving huge amounts of public money were conducted by IBRC. The Government has missed an opportunity by not having an independent commission. In fact, this is a classic kick to touch. Many people have now questioned whether the Department of Finance would be kept fully informed if there was another sale process. I also wonder whether freedom of information requests can continue during this investigation.

I will finish by quoting Professor David Farrell, UCD professor of politics, who said the controversy highlighted two major weaknesses in our political system. The first, he said, was “a Government that is not held adequately to account by parliament,” and the second was “a mindset that privileges secrecy over openness”.

The Moriarty tribunal report, which was delivered early in 2011, almost simultaneous with the formation of the current Government, contained very serious findings against two named individuals, a former Fine Gael Minister and a prominent businessman. There was much pious rhetoric in this House and much hullabaloo about what was going to be done in the next four years and in the programme for Government. One of the key commitments in the programme for Government was that there was going to be a democratic revolution. The public were reassured that this democratic revolution had been proclaimed to ensure there would be accountability and transparency, and that the sins of the past would never happen again.

As with much else over the course of the last four years, the Government parties took the sayings and doings of Government for granted. It has insisted that we judge it on its words, not on its actual intentions, and it has ignored its commitments, particularly with respect to the most vulnerable people. Within months of taking office, the Government oversaw the beginning of several significant sales of State assets through contracts within IBRC, with the writing down of large amounts of debt - initially, debt indirectly owed to the State's own citizens. Many of these dealings involved a businessman named in the tribunal report in 2011. In my view, this constituted a profound failure of Government, a failure of public policy and a failure of constitutional policy. It demonstrated a lack of prudence and oversight by this Government in terms of a re-engagement one month after the publication of the Moriarty report. Why was the State, under the Government, being permitted to involve itself again in dealing with a person named in the Moriarty tribunal? One cannot fault a businessman for wanting to make a profit, but one has to fault a Government for failing to have proper oversight.

This is a Government that accepted the terms of the Moriarty tribunal. Once bitten, twice shy. What we have seen is something that is far from shy. We can all remember the Taoiseach proudly standing for photo opportunities with that same business person. We had a situation in which Ministers, particularly in the Fine Gael Ministries, were happy for their Departments to have a critical role in overseeing deals with respect to the changes in society and the offloading of assets through IBRC.

We can see it here tonight. I know the backbenchers in the Government are very sensitive about allusions to words and commitments, and they tread very carefully around that. There is a famous incident in a Sherlock Holmes story concerning the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. What we see here is the absence of the bark of a dog. We have seen it too many times; we see it in every incident. It involves the failure of the dog to bark, to stop and make sure this did not happen again. We cannot be surprised with the actions of Fine Gael. They act according to their nature, their instinct. The fable of the scorpion and the frog comes to mind immediately. Incidentally, Labour should realise that it is the frog and the scorpion is stinging it on this one. It is clear that the scorpion will drop the frog when it has injected its poison.

The last Fine Gael-Labour Party Government saw the single biggest act of corruption in the history of the State, whereby a State asset acquired through corruption ended up massively in the control of one businessman in this country. At that time, the Labour dog failed to bark, and history is repeating itself here tonight.

Siteserv owed €150 million to IBRC - that is to say, it owed €150 million indirectly to the State and its citizens. It was eventually sold at a discount for €45 million. As part of that sale, curiously, €5 million was used as an incentive to ensure the sale took place with the current bidder. The Department of Finance was mystified and concerned at the time about the €5 million, which is documented and has been clearly evidenced in this House. Other bidders were excluded from the process, including bidders who were prepared to bid more. In fact, they were excluded from engagement in the bidding despite the fact that they were bidding an additional €10 million or €15 million. That is not understood in this House to be prudent political oversight.

The successful bidder, we are told, was favoured because he was willing to waive any due diligence and to effectively buy the company on the blind. It is extraordinary that a company should be willing to spend €45 million on a pig in a poke, on a company that was flatlining, with a penny stock. Of course, it turned out to be a very fortunate purchase and, in fact, it was a blind sale that was a wonderful gamble. I know the Acting Chairman is prone to the odd gamble, but this was one of the best blind sale gambles in this country. This is a company that landed on its feet. There was no due diligence, it put €45 million on the table and there was a kickback of €5 million to the shareholders.

Of course, Siteserv is only one of many companies that were sold off. Questions are now being raised with respect to other deals that took place involving IBRC. That is why it is critical that we have a full and open commission of investigation. The Minister will no doubt continue to prevaricate around answering questions. I was alarmed to hear Deputy Catherine Murphy raise over the course of the weekend the possibility that obtaining freedom of information data in the coming months will be highly unlikely as a consequence of the construct of this investigation.

In all of this, unfortunately, the Labour Party has turned its blind eye. It has done it before as a result of a significant decision around State assets. Labour Party Members cannot continue to keep their hands clean. It simply is not possible, because the public are aware of what is happening. They cannot, by absenting themselves from this discussion, wash their hands of the sins happening here and turn a blind eye to IBRC in the context of what is clearly the creation of a Fine Gael baby.

The Labour Party turned a blind eye to the construct of IBRC. It was a monster which became unaccountable, and it was the Minister for Finance who was the significant shareholder who, by default, hid behind that monster. The Government cannot turn a blind eye to the situation and I appeal to the Labour Party to grow a pair and to stand up for decency.

Deputy Rabbitte murmured an alarm and would have had conniptions on this side of the House. The only conniption we have seen with respect to his actions was to control the dominance of one business owner in this country with respect to private print and broadcast media by the State. It is not in any way a negative comment to the journalists who work in this House. They are some of the finest people I know, but they must find it very difficult to file copy tonight on this debate.

The Tánaiste made noises on Siteserv and called for the relevant information about the sale to be brought into the public domain. She seemed at times to be in favour of an inquiry. Instead, however, she has quietly gone along with the farce Fine Gael is now proposing. That involves a massive conflict of interest for a body being called in to review a conflict of interest because it is in the middle of it. It is disgraceful. There is nothing surprising when it comes to Fine Gael because it is abusing the position of the Labour Party in this respect. We are learning the hard way in Irish politics because the Labour Party is quite content to go along with the right-wing instincts of a Government and party which are, for the second time in my generation, going to enrich the richest people in this country by arranging these sorts of deals.

This is happening at a time when the Cabinet, in the context of low income earners, will meet to discuss putting attachment orders on families who are struggling day in and day out. There are people who cannot pay their bills, including those from Irish Water, but will have money taken directly from their social welfare payments, regardless of the impact that will have. Those who have a financial interest in Irish Water will hope that decision will go down well because Irish Water desperately needs reassurance with respect to EUROSTAT on how it will secure revenue. It will come at any cost, which will mean carpet bombing the most vulnerable people in society.

Those who exist on social protection, lone parents and those who have a few bob at the end of the week to survive will be central to a Cabinet decision about cuts to child benefit, payments for those aged under 26 years and other cuts that the Labour Party promised to safeguard against in government. The motion offers it the opportunity to redeem itself. It should support a fully independent inquiry into the sale of Siteserv, other companies, IBRC and all the transactions that have taken place. An independent commission is needed. I commend Deputy Fleming, who proposed the motion.

I thank Fianna Fáil for tabling the motion and allocating me some of its speaking time. While Siteserv is at the centre of this controversy, it is part of a wider set of issues.

I want to refer briefly to an article in The Sunday Times from last Sunday. It states that in summer 2011, around the same time as the decision was made to sell Siteserv, Sierra Support Services, a Siteserv subsidiary, started preparing a bid for contracts to install water meters. Siteserv already had a contract with Bord Gáis to service boilers. According to Sierra's managing director the company began hiring water meter specialists in mid 2011. Siteserv was haemorrhaging cash and owed IBRC and the taxpayer €150 million, yet was planning for the future which involved water metering.

On 26 July 2013, a Sierra joint venture, GMC Sierra, won three contracts, worth €62 million each, to install water meters for Irish Water. To understand that, one has to go back to June 2011 when the sales process for Siteserv, led by Siteserv itself rather than an examiner, was commenced. IBRC took a hands-off approach despite being owed €150 million. A sales team was assembled, comprising Walter Hobbs, four Siteserv executives and board members, Davy Corporate Finance and KPMG. Somewhere along the way a decision was made to exclude trade buyers. Some 50 candidates were whittled down to nine expressions of interest in November 2011. On 11 November 2011 those interested parties were contacted and asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Once they were signed, an information pack about Siteserv was sent to potential bidders. This allowed for due diligence and there was a deadline of 5 p.m. on 7 December 2011, a date which should be remembered because it is important. Parties were informed that the sales team wanted the entire process to be concluded by mid-January, which was quite hasty. We now know that Millington, which was the eventual bidder, was not incorporated until 7 December 2011. Given that the entity did not exist, how could it have undertaken the three week due diligence period required of the other bidders?

Millington could not have signed a confidentiality agreement in November 2011, nor could it have received a Siteserv information pack because it did not exist at the time. If Millington was able to make a bid later in the process than all other bids, how did it come by the information it needed to make the bid? These things are not made on the back of an envelope. Who gave it the information?

It is possible that Millington used a proxy to obtain that information on its behalf. If so, how does that sit with confidentiality agreements? Given that Millington only came into existence on 7 December, the same day as the deadline for the first round of bids, how can we find out how soon after that Millington made a bid? Did that bid follow the 16 point checklist required of the other bids or was it a three page submission to which Mr. Dukes referred when he confirmed that Mr. O'Brien had advance knowledge of the sale?

Deputy, you must not use people's names.

Various sources involved in the process have indicated to me that they always felt that all bidders were not playing from the same starting line. In the information pack sent to prospective bidders who had signed confidentiality agreements it stated that it should be assumed that the company will be acquired on a debt free and cash free basis, yet I have had strong indications that when Siteserv was sold to Millington it had €10 million on its balance sheet, a combination of cash and debtors, something which has to be inquired into.

We now know that Millington paid €40 million to IBRC and €5 million went to the shareholders of Siteserv in order to get them to agree to the deal. Yet others involved in the process clearly said they would have paid more. When a person from Altrad, a trade buyer which was excluded from the bidding process, turned up at the shareholders' meeting on 5 April 2012 the person commented that they wondered about the confidentiality aspect of the deal. It was said that if one looked at any of the acquisitions it made, it kept everything in total confidence.

He went on to dismiss claims by Siteserv that there was only a slim chance that Altrad would stick with the higher bid. He said that the reality was that with the synergies it had with Siteserv, €60 million would have been a low bid, but that was his company's opening bid. If an open fight had been taken place and people with synergy had been allowed in, the deal could have gone well beyond €60 million.

Another point that leads to a question is share activity. At the start of November 2011, the share price for Siteserv was 3.5 cent, yet over the course of the month as the supposed confidential process intensified, the purchasing of Siteserv shares increased 53 fold. The review the Minister has commissioned is to be undertaken by Kieran Wallace of KPMG. It cannot be considered to be independent, no matter how much one tries to stretch the imagination. It led the sale and represented the personal interests of many of the key players involved in the sale, and Kieran Wallace led the liquidation of Siteserv plc.

The Siteserv special liquidator's report was signed off by him and he was the one who distributed the €5 million to the shareholders when it was formally signed off. A map of almost all the key players in the Siteserv saga leads back to one place and that is KPMG. Let me read a list. The chairman of Siteserv during the sale is a consultant and company director with KPMG. Robert Dix, a non-executive director at Siteserv, was a partner in KPMG-----

Deputy Murphy should not be referring to names.

We have to be able to create these links.

Please do not refer to names.

The independent person appointed by IBRC was himself a former director of IBRC. The person who acted for Davy in the sale and now works in the shareholder management unit at the Department of Finance was a former KPMG employee. KPMG's Kieran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson were sued by Mike Aynsley, Tom Hunersen and Richard Woodhouse, following the winding up of IBRC.

KPMG's own global code of conduct states specifically that it must maintain independence and objectivity and avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest. By having KPMG undertake this process, it has undermined the process right from the word go. Of course, KPMG acts for the person who owned the process as auditor in Topaz, Communicorp, Independent News and Media and the Beacon Hospital.

There are other elements of the Siteserv transaction which need to be explored and which the terms of the review do not cover. For example, the Sunday Independent reported that it asked the CEO of Siteserv at the shareholders' meeting on 5 April 2012 whether the CEO had significant personal borrowings from IBRC. It is essential that any inquiry take a look at how those loans played out after the process and after a significant amount was paid to him. The ultimate buyer of Siteserv was one of the largest debtors of IBRC. His loans had expired and he had apparently written to Kieran Wallace in his role as special liquidator seeking the same terms IBRC had allowed him, which was to pay off his loans in his own time at low interest rates. When a loan expires, one expects a penalty to be put onto it, not a discount. My understanding is that it was costing IBRC 7% for its money, significantly higher than the 1% NAMA was borrowing at. Even if Denis O'Brien's loans were eventually paid off in full-----

I have asked the Deputy three times not to mention names.

The interest rate represented a subsidy. I cannot understand why this is not a factor, given that more money would have had to be borrowed to purchase the company. As I understand it, it was the State-owned AIB which put up the money for the purchase of Siteserv to Millington. I must say I find it really astonishing. Surely it is clear that the proposed review is not only conflicted; it is just not wide enough to give a true picture. KPMG should really recuse itself from the process because this will damage its reputation. This is not an independent review and it is essential that one is held.

I commend the motion to the House and thank Deputy Fleming for tabling it. I also commend Deputy Catherine Murphy on the work she has conducted, which has been very important in bringing the matter to a head and bringing it to public attention. The public has a right to be concerned about how the Government is dealing with this issue. The Government should ensure there is a proper investigation to assess what happened and to give confidence that everything was above board. Unfortunately, the Government has not done this. There is an often used phrase that justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done. In respect of that key principle, the Government is starting off on a very poor footing. Much was made by earlier speakers of the move by the Government to introduce a new operational framework between the Government and IBRC. Many attacks were made on Fianna Fáil and other Members on this side of the House. When speakers become so adamant about shooting the messenger, one begins to understand that they must have a particularly big problem with the message.

In his speech, the Minister for Finance indicated that the revised relationship framework and operational protocol was actually a condition of Ireland's third review under the EU-IMF programme of financial support. Despite all its backbenchers lauding the Government tonight, we see in the Minister's own speech that the rationale for this action was that the EU and the IMF told the Government it should do it. Following the agreement of that operational protocol, IBRC was required to provide certain documentation and consult with the Government on big decisions. We see that it forwarded board documentation to the Government - for example, on 20 and 21 March and afterwards. However, the meeting in which the Siteserv deal was done took place five days before IBRC started providing the information. Again, that raises questions which need to be answered for confidence to be restored.

The Minister, Deputy Noonan, also indicated that he is appointing KPMG, the special liquidators, because, in his words, they are best placed to undertake such a review thoroughly and expeditiously, given their access to all books and records of IBRC. If one was to use that rationale, each company would be allowed to audit itself because it already has its own books. That is no basis on which to decide who should be appointed as an auditor or to conduct an investigation. It defies logic.

At the end of his speech, the Minister said that, depending on the findings of the review, further investigations will be initiated as and if appropriate. What needs to happen from the outset is a proper investigation to restore confidence and ensure that the public interest is served. When IBRC was established it had €30 billion of funds. By the time it was liquidated, there was €13 billion. If there are question marks over each of those decisions, there needs to be a genuine mechanism in place to assure the public and give confidence. Unfortunately, the oft-quoted remark from the Taoiseach that Paddy likes to know what is going on has not been a hallmark of how the Government has conducted its business. We are seeing that again in the Minister's approach to this issue, which is not what the public requires and not what a Government that is genuinely addressing an issue should be delivering.

I thank all Deputies who have made a contribution to this evening's discussion. Having listened to the debate, the Minister for Finance is of the view that there is some common ground on both sides of the House in this matter. We are agreed to various degrees that in light of the recent concerns raised before the Houses of the Oireachtas and elsewhere regarding the Siteserv transaction and the public discourse it has caused surrounding the handling of other transactions undertaken by IBRC, a review into certain transactions is needed to serve the public interest. This review and subsequent report will evaluate whether there is any evidence of material deficiencies in the performance of their functions by those acting on behalf of IBRC, including the board, directors, management, employees and agents of IBRC and whether it can be concluded that any of the transactions were not commercially sound.

The Minister for Finance has directed the special liquidators of IBRC to review certain transactions which occurred between 21 January 2009, the date of the nationalisation of IBRC, and 7 February 2013, the date of the appointment of the special liquidators to IBRC. The review will cover transactions that resulted in a capital loss to IBRC of at least €10 million during that period or that are specifically identified by the special liquidator as likely to give rise to potential public concern in respect of the ultimate returns to the taxpayer. It is expected that there will be at least 30 transactions which will fall under the scope of this review.

The Minister for Finance stresses the commission of the review and report is to serve the public interest in light of recent speculation, and is not being undertaken as the result of any evidence that such deficiencies existed or that transactions were not commercially sound. The motion before the House seeks to derail the review process already set up. Some Members of the House have suggested the special liquidators should not have been appointed to undertake the review. The Minister is strongly of the few that the special liquidators are best placed to undertake such a review thoroughly and expeditiously given their access to all books and records of IBRC, the resources at their disposal to conduct such a review and the powers set out under the IBRC Act which allows the Minister for Finance to make this direction in the public interest.

As the Minister said, to manage and-or mitigate against any actual or perceived conflicts of interest, he has directed, with the agreement of the special liquidators, that retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, will monitor any actual or perceived conflict of interest in the review. The Minister for Finance is confident this will ensure the review process is robust and addresses concerns expressed on the other side of the House surrounding possible conflicts of interest.

The Minister thanks the Deputies for this constructive and helpful debate, and assures them the review process into certain transactions in IBRC, which the special liquidators have been engaged to conduct, will be conducted in a professional manner, with any actual or perceived conflict of interest in the review being monitored by retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill. The report will be available on 31 August 2015 and will be made available to relevant committees of the Oireachtas at that stage.

I welcome this opportunity to speak on this issue which is of significant public interest. From the commentary on the Government side, one would believe there is nothing in this worth exploring and that we will establish some form of investigation to see what, if anything, is happening. The alarm bells are ringing and have been for some time in the Department of Finance. Concerns were expressed about this particular deal.

There is no point in pretending the Government is open and transparent. The information had to be dragged from it. Deputy Catherine Murphy has done the State some service by doggedly pursuing this issue. We would not be establishing any form of investigation, and it would be swept under the carpet only for her tenacity. I remember in 1995 when allegations were made that a Minister was paid substantial sums of money to facilitate the granting of a mobile phone licence. The people who made those allegations were excoriated and a tribunal was established which found a politician was paid substantial sums of money and that Denis O'Brien-----

He is named in a tribunal report lodged before the Parliament and I am entitled to state this fact without equivocation.

I ask the Deputy not to name persons, please.

It states quite clearly in the tribunal report that payments were made to facilitate the granting of a mobile phone licence, but nothing has happened. Tribunal reports are gathering dust but nothing has happened. This is why the public is angry. People are angry because they feel there is something here and they want to know the truth. Let us have the truth. The only way this can come about is through a cold-blooded clinical commission of investigation into this particular transaction.

There are many aspects of this transaction which ordinary people cannot understand. To this day, I still cannot understand how shareholders in a bust company would be paid almost €5 million. I cannot understand why, if there was confidentiality everywhere, share transactions would all of a sudden take on a new meaning. This company was going nowhere and all of a sudden share transactions occurred at a rapid pace and the price was inflated. These two things alone suggest there were issues. What I find most amazing in all of this is that moving on a small bit further we find the involvement of Sierra in the installation of water meters, and the fact it was able to have due diligence and start recruiting personnel before any contracts were awarded. It simply beggars belief that somebody did not know something.

I cannot accept that members of the Government can sit here on their hands and pretend they will establish this investigation and that if there are potential conflicts of interest retired Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill will step in. The very fact a former judge has been appointed to oversee potential conflicts of interest suggests there are conflicts of interest all over the place. Let us be very clear, KPMG is right in the middle of this at every turn and now it is being asked to investigate itself and oversee the overall investigation. It is the special liquidator.

At some stage the Government must understand the anger being expressed on this side of the House is not that of a number of Deputies trying to point score. This goes to the very heart and principle of what this Parliament is about. It is about ensuring people's rights are upheld. The public has a duty to know the full truth of this issue. At the heart of it all is the writing off of €100 million of taxpayers' money. This is the kernel of the issue.

As has been pointed out, while we are having this debate the Cabinet is meeting to put attachment orders on people who are already on the bread line. These people see companies or people riding off into the sunset, picking the carcass of this State. This is simply not good enough. People made allegations in 1995 and were excoriated for doing so. A tribunal was established and made findings but nothing has happened. Are we to say in 2015 that allegations were made, concerns were expressed and a sham investigation was established to sweep this under the carpet? It would be shameful and the Government should do something about it. It should support the motion and ensure the public have confidence in the investigation.

Two weeks ago we debated in the Chamber the plight of SMEs throughout the country. Deputies on all sides of the House highlighted the difficulties which still exist for SMEs trying to access finance, in particular the cohort of SMEs whose banks are exiting the market, whose loans are being sold to foreign investment funds and for which there is no protection and limited finance. The lack of urgency of the Government on extending the credit guarantee scheme and constantly long-fingering it, while jobs are being lost as a result, is absolutely exposed when one sees the €5 million that went to the shareholders in an effectively insolvent company.

Many SMEs are being told they are not solvent, which is why they are not getting bank credit, and that they got too much in the so-called good days. They see €5 million being given to shareholders and a €100 million write-off for the company involved. They see an utterly dysfunctional relationship between IBRC and the Department of Finance. They try to understand how they are exposed while nobody in the Government really gives a damn about jobs going out the door, no finance being in place and the banks still ruling the roost.

They also see this reluctance on the part of the Government to establish an independent commission. The Minister of State said we would have a report from Mr. Justice O'Neill on 31 August 2015. How suitable, just in time for the budget when everybody will be speaking about that, and we all know what we will be speaking about after the budget. The Government hopes that by delivering it at the end of the summer nobody will ask questions. The Minister, Deputy Noonan, stated depending on the findings of the review further investigations will happen if appropriate. Who will decide whether it is appropriate? Will the House decide or will it be the Minister, who has been dragged kicking and screaming at every touch and angle into this debate?

We saw the Minister's mask slip spectacularly last Thursday on "Today with Sean O'Rourke". We saw the pressure he is under. For me, what the issue exposes more than anything is the cosmetic nature and the spin of the Government towards political reform. Why is it that when Deputy Catherine Murphy and every other Deputy in the House table a parliamentary question they need a degree in English to be able to phrase the question in such a way as to get the information required? Not many people would have the tenacity to go back 16, 17 or 18 times in the way Deputy Murphy did and for this she is to be applauded. We must also learn from this. The Government has done nothing to reform the parliamentary question system. It has done nothing to reform the reluctance of the system to answer basic questions.

The Government has done nothing to reform the committee system and to give the committees more power. The Government has done loads of cosmetic stuff such as sitting on Fridays and sitting extra hours. However, it is all rubbish at the end of the day when we see the Siteserv controversy and the work that Deputy Catherine Murphy and her staff had to put in. It exposes the political reform agenda as a complete sham by a Government that is driven by spin only. Pollsters tell the Government what to say, but when it is exposed by something like this, the mask slips. Parliamentary democracy should mean something, and as we celebrate and commemorate 1916, which is something that people laid down their lives for, what we have in this country is a sham. There are questions that come back unanswered, and smart people, for want of a better phrase, in the Civil Service spend their time working out how to give a load of words but not answer. That is what the controversy exposes. It could happen in any Department. The Minister knows that because he asked those questions in his time.

Every Department is reluctant to answer questions, and if we learn anything from the committee and the controversy, we need to reform how we get information. We will set up a High Court judge, appointed by people with a role in this, and he will provide a report at the end of the summer, just as we start discussing the budget and heading into an election campaign. Someone will then decide if it is appropriate to have a further investigation. Why is the Government afraid of saying that we will establish a commission of investigation on 7 May and await its report? Someone in the elected Government or the permanent government must be afraid of what such a commission would find. By long-fingering it and pushing it out to the budget or the election, they hope the interest will go away. It will not.

As I conclude the debate, I am struck by the empty benches on the Government side, with one Member from the Government parties present. That says it all about what the Government thinks of this Parliament. No wonder they do not answer parliamentary questions if they do not care to show up for a debate such as this. Where are the Ministers? They are agreeing a mechanism whereby companies such as Siteserv install water meters, which will cost Irish Water customers €500 million. There will, no doubt, be substantial additional funds for phase 2 of the water metering project. The Government is making sure that people, through attachment orders to social welfare payments, salaries or other Government payments, will pay for the installation of these water meters.

It is funny that the debate has come full circle in a few hours. The debate started about why a company called Siteserv, which owed the Irish taxpayer €150 million, was given a write-off of €110 million. Included in that sum was €5 million to buy off shareholders. Some of the shareholders owed substantial moneys to IBRC. The essence of the debate is that the Irish people were caught for €110 million to bail out Siteserv. It is borrowed money and they will pay interest on it. The Irish people paid for the bailout of the Siteserv on day one to the cost of €110 million, plus interest that they will pay for years to come. We will see on the news tonight that the Government has probably signed off on a decision to catch Irish households on the double for Siteserv. They caught them once for €110 million to write off debt, but they will impose attachment orders to make sure they pay for the installation of the water meters and they will catch the Irish people and charge them a second time. This is the second bailout for Siteserv, the first being through IBRC and the second by the Cabinet.

This is a sell-out of the Irish people, and the essence of the debate is that there is one law for the rich and another for the ordinary people. This is the Government of big business, which is the Fine Gael way. The last time it was in government, Fine Gael did it this way, and some of those Ministers who were in government the last time are doing it again. Just in case €110 million was not enough when they wrote off debt, they also make sure the company gets paid for water meters. If people do not like it, they will make attachment orders on people's wages and salaries before they receive money to pay their mortgages.

People are struggling to pay their mortgages. The €110 million written off for Siteserv would allow a write-down on mortgages of €100,000 each for 1,100 hard-pressed families. Let us think about that. Where is the bank veto? If those 1,100 people sought a write-down of €100,000 on their mortgages, the Irish banks, which the Minister for Finance owns on behalf of the Irish taxpayers, would use their veto and say that the customers would get no write-down. When they sell houses from under people, they will pay for the negative equity. In the case of big businesses connected to the people who were in government the last time, there is no bank veto, but they will get the write-down and the Government will make people pay on the double. This is about the Fine Gael way of running the country, looking after big business and the wealthy, and to hell with the ordinary people.

The Government will get its comeuppance, but the real disappointment is that, when listening to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, I never heard such a cheerleader for Fine Gael policy. He is more Fine Gael than the Fine Gael members. He has Stockholm syndrome and he has been captured by the trappings of office. He has single-handedly sold the Labour Party down the Swanee in an effort to cosy up to Fine Gael and look after business at the expense of ordinary people. I recommend, if Government Members come into the Chamber, that they vote in favour of the motion.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 43.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Seán Ó Fearghaíl and Sean Fleming.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.20 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 7 May 2015.