Project Eagle sale highlights downside of ‘commercial sensitivity’ secrecy

First Published in the Sunday Business Post on 18 September 2016

Lesson one to circumvent public transparency – insert a commercial sensitivity clause into your organisation’s raison d’être

What does the Nama sale of Project Eagle have in common with public-private partnerships operated by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and the winding down of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation?

All three entities involve the expenditure of extraordinary sums of public money. By definition, they operate at the coalface between public and private sectors. They are the subject of extensive scrutiny. Crucially, Nama, NTMA and IBRC involve decision-making where there is a “winner” and a “loser”.

The winner is defined as the individual or company which makes the best bid for a Nama asset, tenders the most successful PPP (Public-Private Partnership) proposal or successfully buys IBRC loans at the best rate.

The decision-making process which determines the “winner” does not, for the most part, come under Freedom of Information legislation. The pretext of commercial sensitivity precludes against a comprehensive transparent regime.

We will get to exact examples of this shortly.

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