The tax defaulters list; June to September

The Revenue Commissioners published their quarterly list of tax defaulters during the week. It’s always worth a scan through if you’re a nosey bollocks who doesn’t like tax avoiders journalist at a loose end.

Revenue Tax Defaulters List for June 1 to September 30 2009

€179.4m was recouped altogether, with details of the big-baddies being made public. It was a colourful bunch this time too, a postman, the owner of a lap-dancing club, a taxi driver, a singer and – with impeccable timing – a priest, were all amongst the redden-faced. The usual types were in there of course also – property developers, construction industry types, farmers, auctioneers, company directors, etc.

The papers and broadcasters, as is their perogative, covered the stories of the lads and lassies fined big numbers. I prefer the other stories though, the ones that tend to get glossed over… you know, the people fined just forty or fifty grand – as opposed to millions – for trying avoid contributing to the country’s coffers…

It’s been a tough few months for Michael McDarby and Séan Acton. Back in February 2008 the two lawyers from Mayo were dragged before the Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), where they were found guilty of eight counts of professional misconduct. An embarassing incident, no doubt. According to the Mayo News, the counts included… Continue reading “The tax defaulters list; June to September”

More Anglo FOIs

Deputy Joan Burton (Labour) has been kind enough to share more of her Freedom of Information requests relating to Anglo Irish Bank. I have scanned and OCRd these documents for easy searching. If any other TDs wish to share their requests, please contact us.

Burton 1 (Ireland notification to EC)

Burton Anglo 2
Burton Anglo 3 (Result of appeal for internal review)

Burton refusal

Anglo 3 is interesting. It contains an email to the Financial Regulator Patrick Neary on October 11, 2008:

Min v anxious that we have the pwc work on anglo asap so that we understand their book in detail – sees them as most likely source of trouble, esp given share price movements during the wk

It also contains this email from John Paul Coleman at Anglo, dated January 20, 2009:


As discussed as at the 30th September 2008 (last published accounts) the Bank had €2.835 billion of perpetual bonds not guaranteed under the scheme.

This includes the Banks GBP300million preference shares (€371 million at 30th September).Attached is the note which will be in the Banks annual accounts showing this for September. The note has both dated and undated but I have highlighted the undated (perpetual) bonds.

Any additional information needed please let me know.


BOI & AIB: A year? More like a week…

Four days ago on this site I noted Miriam Lord’s article in The Irish Times about representatives of Bank of Ireland and AIB appearing before the Oireachtas Finance Committee. Ms Lord wrote…

The Bank of Ireland went so far as to say it wouldn’t have to go back to the Government next year for a further handout. Sheehy was similarly upbeat about AIB.

Today RTÉ Business Editor, David Murphy spoke on the One O’clock News (TV) on the likely repercussions of this NAMA-related story

Previously people expected that the discount on the loans would be in the region of 18% for Bank of Ireland. [Today] Bank of Ireland has got more information regards how the loans will be valued and it has checked it against its own loan portfolio and as a result it has given a broad hint that the figure will be 25%. That’s a big change there, that means they will require more capital…

Later on the Six One Mr Murphy went a step further…

Bank of Ireland had expected a discount of 18% on the €16billion of loans it will transfer to NAMA, now that discount will be more like 25%. That means the bank will need more capital, potentially a billion euro more than expected.

If things are bad for Bank of Ireland they are worse for AIB which is to transfer a much bigger €24 billion of loans to NAMA.

The weaker position of both banks means using the stock market to raise funds is a less likely option. The only alternative is getting State money to stay above water.

RTE News understands one option under consideration by Government is for the State to convert the €3.5 billion already given to both banks into ordinary shares to plug the gap in their finances – but that would imply massive state shareholdings.

It looks like Cearbhall was right to be sceptical…

What I find odd – and believe me I’m no business expert – is during the cited exchange at the Oireachtas Finance Committee Deputy Michael McGrath said to Richie Boucher of BOI that the discount was never going to be near 18%. Not that he should have needed notifying. This, Mr Boucher conveiniently ignored in his reply…

Richie Boucher: … Bank of Ireland’s modelling, based on various assumptions with regard to what could be the discount, means that we can take the discounts that might be envisaged and still be in a position to meet the regulatory capital requirements. However, in the medium term we will be obliged to look to the level of capital that is appropriate. The level of capital we require is also proportionate to our balance sheet.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Realistically, if the write-off is going to be of the order of 30%, or a further €4 billion to €5 billion, what level of additional funding – whether from the State or from international investors – would the bank require to satisfy the requirements of the markets?…

Richie Boucher: …Based on the modelling we have carried out, our core tier 1 capital will be significantly ahead of the regulatory requirements and will in fact be such that we believe it will satisfy the bond markets on which we are reliant. We are satisfied, taking into consideration the potential discounts we would be obliged to accept in respect of the transfer of such loans, that the bank will be significantly in excess of the requirements relating to its being able to continue to fund its balance sheet on the markets. I do not believe that this will be an issue.

More interesting searches

Like Mark explained last week, we are closely watching the search strings and IP addresses of visitors. Today another one popped up. On Friday I submitted an FOI request to the Comptroller & Auditor General, located at the Treasury Building in Dublin. They would have received my request today.

And today this search:

Search Engine Phrase “gavin sheridan”
Search Engine Name Google
Search Engine Host
Host Name
IP Address [Label IP Address]
Country Ireland
Region Dublin
City Dublin
ISP Treasury Bldg
Returning Visits 0
Visit Length 2 mins 59 secs
Browser IE 7.0
Operating System WinXP
Resolution 1024×768
Javascript Enabled

It is certainly interesting. I would imagine it is curiosity, or perhaps even a desire to know the purpose of my request. However, it is also worth noting Section 8 (4) of the Freedom of Information Act:

Subject to the provisions of this Act, in deciding In deciding whether to grant or refuse to grant a request under section 7:
(a) any reason that the requester gives for the request, and
(b) any belief or opinion of the head as to what are the reasons of the requester for
the request,

shall be disregarded.

Searching for who I am after my request has been submitted is a curious one. Legally, the reasons for my request are irrelevant to the Deciding officer or the FOI officer.

EU public procurement contracts – Ireland

While I was at Personal Democracy Forum Europe in Barcelona last week, I got talking to someone who had a copy of all EU public procurement contracts for the last several years (70Gb of data). I asked for a copy of all data relating to Ireland, and I have now uploaded a zipped copy of this information for the crowd to use. The data is stored in xml format, and as my programming skills are non-existent, I thought this one might be better given to anyone out there who wants to play with it, and made into a more usable format.

Have fun.

EU public procurement contracts – Ireland (10Mb zipped file)

Bankers appear before finance committee… this time

There’s a most interesting and pertinent piece of political writing in today’s Irish Times by Miriam Lord. She watched high-ranking bankers appear before the Oireachtas Finance Committee.

Eighteen months ago…

…when the same Oireachtas committee wanted to ask the same banks about the way they conducted their business, fewer chairmen and chief executives deigned to turn up. To add insult to injury, the bankers then proceeded to talk down to the worried politicians, assuring them their fundamentals were sound.

…Richie Boucher, before his big promotion, was present back in July of 2008. “Unequivocally,” he declared, “we do not believe there is a Northern Rock lurking in Ireland.”

His colleague, David Guinan, stated: “We pride ourselves on the fact that we have been and continue to be very prudent and responsible.” Donal Forde of the AIB offered the following gem: “In regard to lending standards in AIB, we have behaved very responsibly in recent years and we have maintained a very prudent credit stance.” (Correct. There was a whole shed load of them.)

The highlight of the committee meeting was supplied by Willie McAteer, then executive director of Anglo Irish Bank. “Clearly, the whole perception of Ireland and the negative sentiment towards it are obviously of concern to us. However, this sentiment is not borne out by the fundamentals.”

Here’s another rib-tickler from Willie: “I reject the suggestion that banks have been foolhardy in recklessly lending and driving up values . . . in my experience, the banks have been prudent.”


The Bank of Ireland went so far as to say it wouldn’t have to go back to the Government next year for a further handout. Sheehy was similarly upbeat about AIB.

Do you believe them this time ’round?

Read Miriam Lord’s article in full on

Department of the Taoiseach staff diaries

More than four weeks ago I sought a variety of diaries from from the Department of the Taoiseach. I have now scanned, OCRd and uploaded the diaries of three staff members for the period May 5, 2008 to May 31, 2009.

The diary of appointments for Department Secretary General Dermot McCarthy from May 5, 2008 to May 31, 2009, inclusive.

The diary of appointments for Department Assistant Secretary Philip Hamell from May 5, 2008 to May 31, 2009, inclusive.

The diary of appointments for Department Assistant Secretary Philip Kelly from May 5, 2008 to May 31, 2009, inclusive.

One interesting bit: On November 24, Dermot McCarthy met Patrick Neary of the Financial Regulator and Pat Farrell, probably of the Irish Banking Federation. Another regular appearence in the diaries is that of CIF chief Tom Parlon, likely lobbying.

Brian Cowen’s diary

Part 2 of an ongoing process. Today I am posting the Taoiseach’s diary from October 2008 to March 2009.

Redactions are there because the Department says some relate to personal information, and others relate to party political issues.

The Baker Tilly Report into CIÉ/Iarnród Éireann

The Baker Tilly Report details questionable procurement practices, suspected fraud and collusion between employees and tendering companies within Iaranród Eireann, the sub-section of CIÉ which manages our rail network.

It covers the period between January 2004 and January 2008 and runs to more than 350 pages, making it the biggest official report I’ve read in quite a while. Although the directors of CIÉ received a copy in early 2008, shockingly, they didn’t think it proper to give the minister of transport a copy until the Sunday Independent got a few leaks about the contents in October of this year. It became available under FOI in the last two weeks. It should be noted that the minister is a shareholder in CIÉ, and the company got more than €300m in taxpayers money last year alone. Also worth noting, the department only requested a copy of the report after seeing the SIndo – otherwise this may never have become public knowledge.

Since collecting a copy from the department last week I’ve scanned and sent it in batches to Gavin. He OCR’d them and stitched them back together into a single PDF file which can be viewed at the link below, it gets interesting around page 260. As far as I am aware, this is the only digital copy in the public domain.

The findings are shocking. There was widespread “on-going non-compliance” with procurement procedures resulting in “fundamental system deficiency” in how private companies won contracts. EU procurement laws were ignored. Employees stole railway sleepers from stock, continuously over a long period, and sold them for their own profit – the methods (or lack thereof) used to monitor stock meant this went unnoticed. Companies were paid for work which doesn’t seem to have been done. Paperwork on a serious number of contracts was near non-existent. Explanations for discrepancies arising in stock records are not investigated to a satisfactory extent. Employees colluded with companies to ensure contracts were won. Staff weren’t trained in how to do their job, and one person who signed off on a contract for work which didn’t seem to get done had the contractor working on their private residence.

It’s Fás Mark II.

One figure for definable loss to the company is €2.6m, but this is low due the lack of paperwork available to quantify whether or not elements of contracts, or whole contracts, were losses or not. The Baker Tilly team even state  “we are confident that other unidentified loss exists within the organisation”. Shane Ross puts the figure at €9m.

The Spencer Dock/North Wall development project makes up €892,887 of the definable figure of which €363,540 was down to “known or suspected fraud”. In another area a loss of €271,665 was put down to collusion with contractors – specifically “fraudulent invoices paid over a number of years” at the specific request of an employee whose name has been redacted. The report says the employee has repaid €100,000 in compensation, though it doesn’t say whether or not they’re still an employee to this day.

Another person was employed as an inspector to monitor the work of various contractors (aka vendors), however…

…the work which was being described on the system was not actually being carried out. Surveillance showed that the contractors were doing little or no work when they should have been under the supervision of the inspector in question.

In one instance the vendor was seen to be carrying out work at the inspector’s private address.

It is likely that the company [IÉ] has suffered financial loss whether through value for money or actual fraud during the period examined for the said inspector. Invoices for the period examined total €30,602. It is also highly likely that further losses have been incurred as a result.

However, it’s goes beyond the above. The first 200 pages, though insanely boring and lacking figures, document a complete lack of oversight and  management within the organisation. There was no standard procurement paperwork, for example, meaning it is difficult to trace who was responsible for issuing contracts, what the contracts were for or even who was invited to compete for the work.

Also, service entry details were being based on “pro-forma invoices received after work had been completed rather than being based on an original request, prior to the work commencing”, which makes little sense. The “quality of supporting timesheets and work dockets” and the level of information included on these documents “varied between contractors” due to the poor paperwork system and insufficiently trained staff. This meant there is “little or no detail” about what exactly what was being paid for in some cases.

In short, it seems that at times money was paid to companies, but nobody can tell what was paid for – there was just an invoice.

The Baker Tilly team interviewed a large number of staff and had more fill in questionnaires about their work. They found “no manager or Senior Executive Buyer was aware of the existence of a Corporate Board Procurement Strategy for the Iarnród Éireann Organisation for Infrastructure Maintenance, Signal Electrical & Telecommunications (SE&T) & New Works” – the departments which procure most work. Furthermore, In three Iarnród Éireann divisions – Athlone, Dublin and Limerick – the Baker Tilly team found:

Detailed procedures followed at the Dublin, Limerick and Athlone Division in relation to the following areas for Infrastructure Maintenance and SE&T are not currently documented:

The request for plant hire/labour by the Permanent Way inspector SE&T Inspector;
The approval of the request and the selection of the contractor;
The valuation of the work for the selected contractor;
The input of the details into SAP [business management software] and the creation of a service entry form, where required; and
The receipt, review and approval of the contractor monies and the release of the service entry

The part of the report about the New Works section lists the procedures which are said to be gone through when labour or plant hire is required. The procedure goes something like;

Relevant managers meet and discuss what work will required for the next few weeks;

The co-ordinator then prepares a detailed spreadsheet to estimate the value of the plant hire and labour being requested;

This is then entered in the SAP system;

The co-ordinator emails the contractors with relevant details;

The work is completed and timesheets are signed by an Iaranrod Eireann representative;

The contractor submits invoices which are reviewed in detail and approved by the co-ordinator, two managers and an accountant

But the sentence after that is… “the above procedures followed by New-Works Construction Unit are not currently documented”. It was the same for other sections also. No paperwork.

In the SE&T section “there was no documented evidence presented [to show]… the actual work performed and invoiced is monitored in accordance with the scheme plans and the tender” and that “an estimate of the work to be performed is not calculated prior to the work being requested from the contractor”. How the hell is that possible?

The most unusual piece activity related to payment, supposedly for the removal of soil, to a company whose details are redacted. I’ll finish by quoting a few paragraphs… they’re worth reading.

As part of the Docklands Station Development Project, work was completed in the freight yard in preparation for the project commencement in 2006. As part of the preparation New Works prepared a tender package in July 2006 for the removal of hazardous and non hazardous soils which were accumulated during the course of construction.

REDACTED tendered for this contract to remove non Hazardous Soil in July 2006 but was unsuccessful and the contracts were awarded to REDACTED. However, invoices were received at a later date from REDACTED for the removal of non-hazardous soil from the area outlined above from January to July 2006. It is the contention of New Works that REDACTED were never tasked with, nor did they perform soil removal activities from the North Wall Freight Yard during the course of the project and they are disputing the full extent of the invoices.

The invoices were signed off by and were paid by accounts payable between January and July 2006 quantified at €257,681.60 gross. The invoices were not matched to any planned work or budget of costs for the project, prior to payment of the invoices. Further invoices were submitted by REDACTED in December 2006 however these were not paid by The Company. We understand that there are currently legal proceedings ongoing with the said company.

Blanket purchase orders are set up on the SAP system at the beginning of each year by the procurement department for general plant hire work in the Infrastructure Maintenance Department. The invoices that are the subject of review were charged against a blanket purchase order and then coded to a capital WBS code.

On review of the invoice insufficient detail was provided and no supporting documentation was available. This made it difficult to determine if the work was actually done, figures provided by REDACTED independent consultant engineers, indicated that the work detailed in the invoices could not have been done as the quantity of soil left over to be removed from site was minimal.

It stinks, and I don’t mean the soil.

FOOTNOTE: CIE isn’t covered by the FOI Act, this document was obtained from the Department of Transport. Therefore, a lot of the dirty details may never come out.