Wednesday 23 October 2019

Taxpayers deserve clear answers over the Government's handling of IBRC

Who's in charge of overseeing our banks, exactly? The banks themselves? The Central Bank? What role does the Department of Finance even have? You might think such questions have answers written in stone since the last crowd in power made a dog's dinner of the economy.

They evidently don't, as this week's controversy surrounding the sale of bust company Siteserv by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) suggests.

In the use of €5 million of the proceeds of the sale by the IBRC as a 'sweetener' to shareholders at the crippled company it is abundantly clear that the ordinary, hard-working taxpayer is still neither here nor there when it comes to the gilded affairs of the banking world.

A writer of fiction could hardly have devised a more effective controversy for our age than this saga, touching as it does on nearly all the big cornerstones of public disaffection: the opaque nature of a publicly-owned banking sector to Government ineptitude and even Irish Water.

For most of us it's a murky story that will only underline our suspicions about the intention of the banking industry: They're getting back on their feet by doing the same thing they've always done in pursuing profit unchecked.

The pursuit of profit is a good in encouraging prosperous socieites. But it has to be kept in check and regulated, a lesson this country has learned dearly.

We have heard the argument the €5 million sweetener had to be spent to save the taxpayer the €40 million balance of the sale - all in our best interests, we've been told.

It must be taken on faith that the other bids would not, as the IBRC holds, have materialised to the same level as Millington's bid - described as the most clear-cut on the table.

But for many it was an absolute outrage - that €5 million of our hard-earned taxes be spent on a failed company to help drive the sale of that company in a transaction that netted a fortune for shareholders, not least the company's founder.

It has rightly proved a tough controversy for the Government to weather as it is the Government above all that is the most accountable in all of this. Where was the Government when IBRC was conducting the sale and approving the use of €5 million of the recoverable debt in this way?

Worryingly it has also emerged just how fractious the relationships between the IBRC and the Department of Finance has been all along. This is to be expected in the high-stakes game of economy recovery, financial experts say.

That's not an answer that is in anyway good enough for the citizens of this country whose financial circumstances have changed very little since the nadir of the recession.

We require a robust Department of Finance doing everything it can to keep a particular check on the publicly-owned banks as the liability we continue to face as a result of the banks' greed is sufficiently painful already.

Wexford People

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