Thursday, December 24, 2009

Financial Crisis Investigation Roundup

The Independent finally seems to be coming around to the view I've been canvassing here about the need for an independent commission to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. From today's paper:
"it appears that an Oireachtas committee may not have sufficient powers to deal with the issues that could emerge. At the time of the Abbeylara shooting inquiry, the Supreme Court ruled that an Oireachtas committee could not make adverse findings against individuals who are not members of the Oireachtas.
At the same time, judicial tribunals have proved to be costly and inconclusive. Perhaps a commission of investigation, like the recent Murphy inquiry, could be the answer."
The cost argument is trotted out repeatedly without anything by way of evidence. Even if there are judicial commissions that have conducted interminable and costly investigations, that is hardly proof that parliamentary investigations are superior. At best, it might suggest that the constitution of the commission was faulty in terms of personnel and/or powers and mandate. In any event, a judicial tribunal would not be suitable in this instance because of constraints on expertise.

Surprisingly, there are two pieces on the subject in today's paper. Here are the relevant bits from the second:
"...independent figures believe an inquiry is needed while government spokesmen, such as the Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe, argue forcefully against it. Mr O'Keeffe's assertion that an inquiry would hamper the NAMA process and delay the flow of finance from the banks to businesses is patently absurd in light of the recent admission by Eugene Sheehy, former chief executive of AIB, that NAMA will not have any immediate benefit for borrowers next year. Another objection to a bank inquiry is that it would be long, drawn out and costly. Not necessarily. It can be a tight, efficient, all-party Oireachtas investigation modelled on the Public Accounts Committee DIRT tax inquiry ten years ago."
The author of the second article does not seem to be reading from the same hymn sheet as the first writer!
Meanwhile, the Irish Times is reporting that Minister for the Environment, Gormley, is joined by Fianna Fáil deputies Mattie McGrath and Sean Connick in demanding an inquiry. The Minister concedes that he does not know the best vehicle for an inquiry but favours one conducted by parliament. His reasoning: “It would be cost-effective and it would be efficient. We would have to look at how it would be done. I would hope in the new year we could commence an inquiry.”
This is not persuasive reasoning. An independent commission can be a superior option in terms of expertise, cost, efficiency and results.