THE COST to the State of the losses caused by serious failings at the Dublin Docklands Development Authority were not yet known, Minister for the Environment John Gormley told the Dáil.
He was replying to Fine Gael spokesman Phil Hogan who asked what the taxpayers’ liability would be “arising from this irresponsible mess and the decisions that were made over the years”.
Mr Gormley said the loans had been taken into Nama (National Asset Management Agency) and the authority had been asked to produce a business plan by the end of July.
“It is only after rigorous examination and total engagement with Nama that we will know what the outstanding liability is,” he added.
Mr Hogan welcomed the Minister’s decision to extend the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) to include the authority, as had been provided in a Fine Gael Bill which Mr Gormley had voted against last December.
“I am not a total hypocrite, as some other people might be,” he added.
Labour’s Joanna Tuffy said the Minister had received advice from the Attorney General that the authority could be brought under C&AG’s remit by way of ministerial order.
Yet the Minister had written to Bernard Allen TD, chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, last September, indicating that amending legislation would be required.
Ms Tuffy said that legislation would do much more than bring the authority within the CAG’s remit. Legal advice received by her party indicated that merely adding the authority to the schedule of the existing Act would mean the CAG only being able to look into the future.
He would not be able to examine the authority’s past decisions.
Ms Tuffy said in the case of the Dirt T inquiry, it was necessary to ensure the legislation enabled the C&AG and the Oireachtas committee to examine the banks’ past treatment of bogus non-resident accounts. The same should apply to the authority, if precedent was anything to go by.
Mr Gormley said that was not the advice he had received from the Attorney General, and it would not make sense if it were so.
He had been told that the C&AG’s remit could look at issues raised in two reports.
Pressed further on the issue, Mr Gormley said as the Minister with responsibility for the authority, he was most anxious that there be total openness and transparency in the various matters involved.
“I will not be wanting in this regard and anything that is required for such an investigation will be given,” he added.
Mr Hogan said the matter would have moved further on by now if the Minister had agreed to the Fine Gael proposal last December.
Mr Gormley said Mr Hogan knew he had not received the various reports relating to the authority at the time.
The reports, he added, had been cited in newspaper articles as containing explosive information, but he had said that was not the case and he had been proved right.