Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), which has the task of offloading a €31 billion portfolio of real estate loans, has taken the unusual step of hitting out at press reports casting aspersions against it.
The Dublin-based organisation was stung in particular by a weekend report in the Irish Sunday Independent that alleged that the actions of the agency could have cost 230 jobs that were being created in Dublin.
In a strongly-worded riposte, it said the story was “completely inaccurate and misleading”.
The article in question claimed “lack of urgency” by NAMA almost cost the country 230 jobs and over €100m of investment by global internet giant Google, which last year acquired a headquarters building in Dublin.
The claim centred around Google's investment in a new data centre under construction at Profile Park in west Dublin which the newspaper suggested would have gone to Stockholm, had it not been for the last-minute intervention by Environment Minister Phil Hogan with officials at South Dublin County Council.
The report added the revelation came just two weeks after it emerged that 800 jobs promised for Dublin by broadcasting giant Sky were nearly lost to the UK when NAMA refused to back down on demands that the company lease more office space than it actually needed.
However, NAMA said it wished to state that no effort was made by the paper in question to check the allegations being made through its press office before the story was published and no opportunity was afforded the agency to reject the allegations being made.
“The facts of the situation are that NAMA actions were crucial to resolving a number of issues that NAMA inherited which would have prevented the jobs being created including settling a Court action over rights of way involving an adjoining land owner and settling outstanding development levies owed to South Dublin County Council,” it said. “This ensured that services and access were provided for over 70 acres in this and an adjoining development site.”
NAMA’s actions in this matter not only enabled the project to proceed but facilitated the sale of a second adjoining site in the vicinity which will see another high tech computing operation proceed which will create additional employment, the agency goes on to argue.
A spokesman warned that the agency had seen a “significant increase in the number of baseless, critical stories” relating to the agency as the level of enforcement activity by NAMA has increased in recent months and also where NAMA has applied increased pressure on some debtors to reverse asset transfers, reduce overheads or provide unencumbered assets.
“We have seen increased efforts to spread unfounded and damaging stories about NAMA by some parties whose sole agenda seems to be to frustrate NAMA in carrying out its responsibilities. NAMA wants to place it on record that it will continue to be resolute in fulfilling its legislative mandate and will not be swayed by inaccurate and misleading commentary.”
The rebuke comes a few days after it announced a reorganization following a review by NAMA's board. Brendan McDonagh, chief executive of the agency, revealed details of a reorganisation of functions and a number of linked senior executive appointments.
In a statement, he said: “These changes will help ensure that NAMA is correctly positioned for the challenges ahead. The agency has achieved an enormous amount in its short existence and we have a very busy agenda ahead of us. Our focus remains on recovering the maximum amount of money for the Irish taxpayer and we will continue to evolve and develop organisationally to respond to the challenges we face.”
The reorganisation includes the recruitment of a full time chief financial officer, the restructuring of some existing divisions, and the establishment of a number of new divisions including the following “Asset Management” and “Asset Recovery”.
John Mulcahy was appointed head of asset management, the division responsible for working with debtors, receivers and joint venture partners to identify and develop and asset manage property where value could be added to boost future cash flow.
Ronnie Hanna becomes head of asset recovery, which will work with debtors and receivers to “enhance the effective and efficient management of loan recoveries”. It will be formed from the merger of the existing divisions of portfolio management, credit and lending.