Report to assess if National Broadband Plan ‘compromised’

Auditor Peter Smyth to complete review ordered after resignation of Denis Naughten

Former minister for communications Denis Naughten.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Former minister for communications Denis Naughten. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

 

A report on the National Broadband Plan (NBP), ordered by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar after the resignation of Denis Naughten as miniser for communications last week, is to be completed within three weeks.

It is being carried out by Peter Smyth, the independent auditor of the NBP, and will assess whether the plan, which aims to make high-speed broadband available to some 540,000 unconnected rural properties, has been “compromised”.

Mr Varadkar sought the report following the resignation last week of Mr Naughten over contacts he had with David McCourt of Granahan McCourt, the last remaining bidder for the contract to roll-out rural broadband.

A Government statement said Mr Smyth’s report will “consider any implications for the procurement process of the meetings between the former minister…and representatives of the remaining tendering consortium”.

It will also allow “the Government to assess whether or not the integrity of the procurement process has been undermined by these meetings”.

Along with health and housing, the roll-out of rural broadband is set to be one of the key elements of talks between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on extending the confidence and supply deal, which underpins the minority Government.

Negotiations on a review and possible extension of the deal are expected to begin next week.

Mr Varadkar has proposed an extension of the current arrangement, which sees Fianna Fáil support the Government on key issues, up until an election in the summer of 2020.

The Taoiseach said Tánaiste and Fine Gael deputy leader Simon Coveney will lead his party’s delegation in the talks with Fianna Fáil. Each party will appoint four TDs to their negotiating teams, with Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary expected to head up Mr Martin’s team.