Independent auditor’s broadband report to be published in coming days

Review of process to award State contract for rural network ordered in wake of Naughten resignation

The report was ordered following the resignation of then minister for communications Denis Naughten after revelations he had held private meetings with US businessman David McCourt. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The report was ordered following the resignation of then minister for communications Denis Naughten after revelations he had held private meetings with US businessman David McCourt. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The independent auditor’s report into the process to award the State contract to build the rural broadband network is to be published in coming days.

The report has been delivered to the Government and is being considered by the Attorney General.

The Department of Communications said on Tuesday that on the advice of the Attorney General, those people who are mentioned in the report must be consulted on its contents. “The Minister will publish the report in the coming days,” it added.

The report, by Peter Smyth, was ordered by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar following the resignation of the former minister for communications Denis Naughten after revelations that he had held a number of private meetings with the leader of the sole remaining bidder, the US businessman David McCourt.

In a statement issued on Monday night in response to questions from The Irish Times, the Department of Communications confirmed the review had been received and said it was in consultation with the Attorney General’s office.

There was no indication yet if the process is to be abandoned or if it will proceed.

Escalating costs

There is concern at the escalating costs of the project which senior sources have previously said could eventually reach €3 billion. However, Ministers are afraid that abandoning the process would lead to a severe political backlash in parts of rural Ireland which have been waiting for high-speed broadband for years.

Senior officials and politicians have discussed a possible “plan B” involving an alternative plan to ask one of the State-owned companies such as the ESB or Ervia to build out the network.

However, there is an awareness in Government circles that the way forward is legally fraught no matter what option the Cabinet decides to follow.

One source briefed on the report said parts of it will have to be redacted because of commercial sensitivities and those mentioned in it will need to be offered sight of the document before it is published.